By Taylor Boyd
Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed an executive order stating that parents “may elect for their children not to be subject to any mask mandate in effect at the child’s school or educational program,” as COVID-19 cases and quarantines are increasing in every school system.
The surge in cases also is being felt in Patrick County, according to Acting Schools Superintendent Jason Wood.
“On paper, it looks like it’s going to be near doubled on the number of positive cases from what we had last week. But we’re hoping that is probably leveled off,” he said.
Despite the influx of cases, Wood said he is not worried about the potential to close due to staff shortages, particularly because of the staff’s ability to cover one another.
“Especially with the new flexibility that we’re having with reduced quarantine times. We feel that our staff, if they are exposed, would not have to quarantine as long,” he said.
Wood said administrators also are looking into other options to keep students from having to quarantine, including a test to stay option.
“Right now, we’re just waiting on those test kits so that we could test students daily for the first five days of their exposure and if they’re negative, they wouldn’t have to quarantine at all,” he said, adding the division is also looking into ways to implement a similar program for its staff.
In a release Monday, the school division outlined masking protocols after Youngkin issued Executive Order 2, which creates a parental opt-out of mask mandates.
In the release, school officials noted that parents have had the flexibility to request a mask exemption for their child since the health order went into effect requiring students to wear masks inside school facilities.
When exemption requests are received, families are offered alternatives, which include face shields. Families also are advised that, based on the quarantine guidance from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), students who are unmasked and in close contact with a positive individual must quarantine. Students who are masked are not required to quarantine, according to the release.
“To our knowledge, this quarantine guidance has not changed, and therefore we still encourage parents to promote students wearing masks as an important strategy to keep students in school,” the release stated.
The school division will continue to follow the quarantine guidance from the VDH and CDC, and urged parents to continue masking students to keep them from being quarantined when exposed to a positive individual, according to the release.
School officials also are “looking at ways to provide mask breaks for students and staff inside schools when it is safe to do so,” the release stated.
As of Wednesday, Jan. 19, the Patrick County Public Schools COVID-19 dashboard reported the school division had 52 positive cases and 136 quarantines.
The dashboard suggested there were 19 cases and 51 quarantines at Patrick County High School and eight positive cases and 27 people in quarantine at Blue Ridge Elementary School.
Patrick Springs Primary School, Stuart Elementary School, and Woolwine Elementary School were all reported to have at least 13 students and staff in quarantine. The schools reported eight cases each, except for Woolwine which has three.
The data suggests there are three positive cases and nine people in quarantine at Hardin Reynolds Memorial School and two cases and quarantines at Meadows of Dan Elementary School.
There were no reported cases or quarantines in the Central Office, Maintenance Department, and Technology Department. The dashboard suggested the Transportation Department had one positive case and no quarantines.
The Henry County Public Schools COVID-19 dashboard suggested that as of Friday, Jan. 21, there were 135 positive cases and 262 quarantines in the school division.
Magna Vista High School reported 23 cases and 40 quarantines and Bassett High School reported 18 positive cases, with 33 in quarantine.
Meadow View Elementary School had 46 students and staff in quarantine and 14 confirmed cases. There were 16 cases and 22 quarantines at FC Middle School, and 12 cases and 14 quarantined at Mt. Olivet Elementary School.
Axton Elementary School, Campbell Court Elementary School, Sanville Elementary School, Stanleytown Elementary School, and Laurel Park Elementary School were all reported to have at least seven positive cases and 10 quarantines, except for Sanville which had no positive cases.
Axton Annex, Career Academy, the Central Office, and Outside Programs (MMS, TDP) reported no cases or quarantines. Facilities Maintenance had one person in quarantine.
Monica Hatchett, director of communications, said it is important to note that data presented for the week of Jan. 14 to Jan. 21 may be skewed because of a lack of reporting due to the inclement weather/remote learning week.
City of Martinsville
As of Friday, Jan. 21, the Martinsville City Public Schools COVID-19 dashboard suggested there were 94 confirmed cases for the week of Jan. 7 to Jan. 13, with 75 student cases and 19 staff.
Martinsville High School had 31 positive cases among its students and two staff members. Martinsville Middle School had 19 student cases and 10 employee cases, while Patrick Henry Elementary School had 13 students and two staff members test positive.
There were nine cases among the students at Albert Harris Elementary School and three employee cases; Clearview Early Learning Center reported three student cases.
There are no confirmed outbreaks within the school division.