UPDATE: Panel recommends masks for students 3-12 in Bristol Virginia Public Schools
A panel selected to recommend virus precautions for Bristol Virginia Public Schools endorse a plan where students in grades 3-12 would wear face coverings at all times when they return to in-person instruction.
A report issued Monday by Superintendent Keith Perrigan said the system will also use a set of metrics to help determine whether students return to the classroom or have virtual learning at home including the number of COVID cases in the city, Washington County, Virginia, and Sullivan County, Tennessee.
Perrigan also said the Department of Education a releasing a special virus dashboard to help localities with that decision.
The city school board will discuss these changes at their regular meeting on Aug. 3rd.
Here is the statement sent to parents and students from Perrigan on Monday:
Our Leadership Team remains hard at work editing and refining our School Reopening Plan. We have had some very good feedback from stakeholders, including our staff, about changes that should be made to the draft document that was released almost two weeks ago. Since that time, our health metrics have changed drastically, which has also led to changes in our plan. One of the major changes that has been added to the proposed plan, that will be taken to our Board on August 3rd for approval, is related to the usage of face coverings. Here is a quick summary of the current recommended changes:
Face coverings will be required by students in Grade 3 and higher, anytime 6 feet of distance is not possible.*
Face coverings will be strongly encouraged at all times, by all students and staff.*
Staff should develop creative and safe ways to incorporate “mask breaks” throughout the day.
Face coverings will be required during temperature screenings.
Face coverings will be required during transitions.
*Exemptions are available for students and staff with health concerns or religious concerns.
Additionally, we are working with local health officials to develop a set of metrics to consider as we make decisions about when to reopen schools, when to alter our model of instructional delivery, when to close schools, etc. We have not identified all factors to be considered, but we know that one consideration will be the average number of new cases, per 100,000 people, in Bristol over the most recent 14 day period. We will also consider health metrics in Sullivan County, TN and Washington County VA. Additionally, the State is releasing a “dashboard” later this week for localities to use as a metric for making decisions about school reopening. Obviously, if Virginia moves back to Phase 2 or forward to Phase 4, that would also affect our decision making. Our Board will discuss all of these issues on August 3, which is 17 days in advance of our scheduled opening.
Here are some possible recommendations that could be made as a result of considering all of this data in context:
Continued Worsening Conditions
Hybrid Model (AA/BB) Opening
Fully Virtual Opening
Move Start Date from August 20 to later in the Summer/Fall
Increase Access to In-Person Learning and Support
We appreciate your patience, support, and understanding as we continue to strive to make the best possible decisions for our community, staff, and students. We are trying to balance guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics and new guidance from the Center for Disease Control about the importance of an in-person return to school with the current health metrics of our community and region. There is no simple solution, but we are dedicated to making decisions that protect our students and staff, both when they are in our buildings and when they are not. More information will be available after our August 3rd School Board Meeting. Again, thank you for your patience.
Bristol Virginia Public Schools