Masks are now required for all individuals inside Caroline County Public Schools buildings, regardless of vaccination status, when students are present. (UPDATE: As of Monday, August 30, face masks are required for all individuals in all buildings; they may be removed only when working in a room alone or while eating.)
In a special meeting of the Board of Education on August 17, Dr. Derek Simmons, interim superintendent, discussed the details of this decision with the Board. (Presentation)
“We are laser focused on our primary goal of keeping the school doors open five full days a week for in-person learning for all students,” he stated, “Given the current circumstances, we have a much better chance of meeting that goal if everyone is wearing a mask while indoors.”
This decision was based on several important factors:
- Children 11 and younger are not yet eligible for the vaccine, and significant numbers of students 12 and older remain unvaccinated.
- The Delta variant spreads more easily than previous variants, and can be spread by vaccinated individuals. Throughout the summer, the number of young people contracting the virus has increased.
- According to CDC’s data tracker, Caroline County has been in the substantial or high range for community transmission since early August.
- Based on CDC contact tracing guidance, if an unmasked student tests positive, nearby students must quarantine, even if they were wearing masks. However, if both the positive case and the contacts are masked, the contacts may stay in school.
- The CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Caroline County Health Department all recommend a mask requirement for student and staff safety, and as a way to enable schools to remain open.
- The Draft Reopening Plan Survey comments indicated that while some respondents wanted masks to remain a choice, a majority felt strongly that masks should be required.
Board President Jim Newcomb urged older students, “If you are comfortable with being vaccinated, be a leader in your school and get the vaccine. This is the only way under these conditions to get your life and your friends’ lives as close to normal as possible.”