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DC-area schools reviewing Covid guidelines after CDC relaxes guidelines

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As schools across the DC area review new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that have eased Covid mitigation protocols, Prince George’s County Public Schools tightened their rules this week by reinstating a system-wide mask mandate.

The guidelines relax rules on coronavirus testing and quarantine in schools and come as most of the region’s school systems had already relaxed some rules, with vaccines available to most students and parents who have been pushing for a return to normal.

The CDC continues to recommend indoor mask requirements for schools in communities with high Covid-19 levels, but most other districts have eliminated the mask requirement.

Prince George’s — Maryland’s second-largest district — lifted its mask requirement last month, becoming the last district in the state to do so. The reinstatement of the mandate, which begins Monday, was a recommendation from the county health department. Prince George’s has high levels of Covid-19, according to the CDC.

CDC facilitates school guidance on quarantines, testing and screening

On Thursday, the CDC recommended schools end quarantine for students and staff exposed to Covid, allow students in different classrooms to mingle, and emphasize ventilation and air filtration. It also recommended ending test-to-stay programs, where students who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus are regularly tested and receive negative results, in order to remain in the classroom.

Principals in most DC area school systems, including those in Montgomery and Fairfax counties, Alexandria and DC, said they were reviewing the guidance when contacted Friday.

Schools in Arlington County and Alexandria in Northern Virginia ran small test-to-stay pilot programs last school year. Neither system plans to continue these testing programs. Montgomery County Public Schools — Maryland’s largest with about 160,000 students — had a “very limited program that quickly became unnecessary” because there was a randomized testing program in the school and all staff and students had access to rapid testing, Chris Cram said. the district spokesman.

Prince George’s County schools plan to offer rapid antigen testing for symptomatic students who have signed parental consent forms when classes begin August 29. There was no test-to-stay program last school year; Instead, rapid symptomatic and asymptomatic antigen and PCR coronavirus tests were performed.

Parents and teachers: how do you see the new school year? tell the post office

The new CDC guideline also places an emphasis on air filtration. In the district many Parents and teachers complained about broken HVAC systems and other malfunctioning appliances last school year. The city council unanimously passed legislation requiring DC public schools to report weekly which schools have faulty HVAC systems to help prevent these problems for the new school year.

Some district parents questioned the feasibility of the CDC guidelines.

Bridget Hunnicutt, a mother of aspiring third and fifth graders at Marie Reed Elementary School in Adams Morgan, said teachers and administrators often have “no idea” if ventilation systems are working because the buildings don’t have real-time CO2 monitoring. Without them, teachers don’t know whether to alert students to put on their masks or open windows, she said.

“It’s a real problem because they should be on the lookout for high-risk situations for children, but that’s something that’s invisible,” said Hunnicutt, a documentary filmmaker whose recent projects have focused on the impact of Covid-19.

in an opinion, DC Public Schools said: “We are currently reviewing the CDC’s latest guidance for schools. We will continue to communicate with the [DCPS] community about our health and safety measures.”

KIPP DC, the city’s largest charter network, has traditionally taken a more cautious approach to curbing the spread of Covid, as demanded by most school system parents, spokesman Adam Rupe said. That often makes the charter network “a bit slower to make CDC changes,” he said.

The Charter Network was – along with Prince George – one of the few school systems in the DC area to maintain a mask mandate. This fall, it decided to make masks optional. Also this year the students will have barriers and shields that had separated them AWAY.

KIPP DC was also one of the few school systems in the area that operated covid-19 on a weekly basis Surveillance testing of all staff and students for most of the last school year, although the number of people tested was reduced in April and May due to the withdrawal of funding for coronavirus testing. Parents indicated through a pre-school survey that they wanted to maintain a coronavirus testing program, Rupe said. For this school year, which started Tuesday for many students, the charter network decided to launch a test-to-stay program.

“We will be closely monitoring Covid cases and increasing or resetting our protocols as we monitor Covid counts in DC and our schools,” Rupe said in an email.

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