Masks Optional Inside DC Public Schools Starting Mar. 16

Some Parents Question Decision as Pre-Kindergarten Students Await Access to Vaccine

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Friday afternoon, DC Public Schools (DCPS) announced that masks would be optional for students beginning Wednesday, Mar. 16.

Earlier in the week, DC Health released updated guidance for educational facilities. Under guidance released Mar. 8, masks are no longer required indoors or outdoors at schools when COVID-19 community levels are low based on CDC metrics. The change applies to schools, DCPS offices, school-related activities and transportation.

DCPS said the decision was made consistent with that guidance and in light of low COVID levels in the District.

Vaccination status by age (navy is fully vaccinated, light blue partially vaccinated) as of Feb. 28. 2022. Coronavirus.dc.gov

Vaccinated students identified as a close contact of a known COVID case will no longer have to isolate, but will still have to wear a mask in class for ten days after probable contact. According to District data from Feb. 28, 26 percent of students aged 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated; that rises to 60 percent for students aged 12 to 15.

Vaccines are the best known protection against the virus. But the rates of vaccination for school-aged District residents skews wide racially; 35 percent of white kids ged 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated, vs. 16 percent of their Black peers. 75 percent of white students aged 12-15 are fully vaccinated, next to 43 percent of their Black peers. There is also significant variation across wards. 39 percent of Ward 8 residents were fully vaccinated, compared to 59 percent in Ward 6 and 62 percent in Ward 4.

Some parents immediately expressed concern for pre-Kindergarten students aged 3 and 4 years old who are unable to get the vaccine. It’s not clear when that could happen: in February, the Food and Drug Administration reversed an earlier decision, postponing the approval process for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children 4 and under until April.

 

DCPS said pre-k students will continue to received weekly COVID-19 test kits. The Pre-K Test to Stay pilot program is ongoing, they added. Student in a classroom impacted by a positive case are screened on Mondays and receive rapid antigen tests on Tuesdays.

Quarantine requirements are also adjusted (see chart below, from DC Public Schools).

Pre-K 3 or 4 students in a class with a reported COVID case can remain in class as long as they participate in the Test to Stay Pilot Program, which administers tests at school, and wear masks up to the tenth day post-exposure.

Any student who tests positive for COVID can return to class as of 6 days after testing positive, if they have a negetive test result obtained on day 5. However, they must wear a mask until day ten.

Visit dcpsreopenstrong.com for more information.

Isolation and Return Chart per DC Health Guidance 

If your student:

They should immediately:

On or after day 5 they should:

Tested positive for COVID-19 and has mild or no symptoms. Begin to isolate for at least 5 days. Take a COVID-19 test and can return to school beginning on day 6, IF they receive a negative test result and have been fever free for 24 hours without the aid of medication.

 

Proof of your student’s negative test result must be uploaded to dcpsreopenstrong.com/testing prior to their return, otherwise they must complete a 10-day isolation.

 

Students must wear a mask while at school until day 10 from their positive test result or when symptoms began, whichever is earlier.

 

Tested positive for COVID-19 and has severe or critical symptoms or is immunocompromised. Begin to isolate for at least 10 days and up to 20 days. Consult with your healthcare professional.

 

Was identified as a close contact of an individual who tested positive for COVID-19, is unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated, and has NOT had COVID-19 in the last 90 days. Begin to quarantine for at least 5 days. Take a COVID-19 test and return to school beginning on day 6, IF they receive a negative test result and have no symptoms.

 

Proof of your student’s negative test result must be uploaded to dcpsreopenstrong.com/testing prior to their return, otherwise they must complete a 10-day quarantine.

 

Students are recommended to wear a mask at school until day 10 from their exposure.

 

Was identified as a close contact of an individual who tested positive for COVID-19 and is fully vaccinated OR had COVID-19 in the last 90 days. No quarantine is required. Monitor symptoms for the next ten days. Your student is recommended to take a COVID-19 test after day 5 but not required to do so. Proof of your student’s negative test result is not required to be uploaded to the DCPS testing portal.

 

Is in a DCPS PK3 or PK4 class and there is a reported case of COVID-19 in their classroom. May continue to attend school in-person provided they participate in the Pre-K Test to Stay Pilot. Tests will be administered at school. Students must wear a mask at school and in the school community for 10 days from exposure.