Randolph BOE approves student mask mandate

ELKINS — Students in Randolph County Schools will be required to wear masks to begin the new school year as part of a back-to-school plan officials hope will ensure the safety of students and staff.

In response to a request from Superintendent Debbie Schmidlen, the Randolph County Board of Education voted this week to require masks to be worn in school and on buses by students in grades kindergarten through 12 and staff PreK-12.

Teachers and school staff will also be required to wear masks.

Schmidlen said she and other school officials have worked closely with the Elkins-Randolph County Health Department to determine a plan best suited to protect students and staff from contracting COVID-19 or the delta variant.

“This is a way to get our kids in school, in person; getting instruction from their teachers and not being in front of a computer,” Schmidlen said. “I would love to avoid having to go to distant learning again, and I feel that this is one of the ways that we can avoid that, by starting out the school year with masks.”

The decision made by Randolph County Schools was in response to the West Virginia Board of Education voting to leave mask mandates up to county school systems.

County officials have intentions of reevaluating rules and procedures each month until masks are no longer required in school. These changes will be based upon the number of positive cases active in Randolph County.

The first meeting to discuss possible changes will be held in September. While a meeting has already been scheduled for September, board members requested that a meeting to reevaluate be held prior to the currently scheduled date if cases make a considerable drop in the county.

“We don’t want to say ‘It’s masks and that’s it.’ We want to meet monthly and reevaluate our numbers,” Schmidlen explained. “As the numbers improve, we can consider lessening the restrictions in school. The big concern right now is for the younger children.”

Custodians and teachers will continue to follow cleaning and sanitizing procedures similar to those followed during the previous pandemic-influenced school years (2019-20 and 2020-21). School officials noted there are “plenty” of masks and cleaning supplies left over from the 2020-21 school year.

“Schools will continue to clean and disinfect regularly. We will follow appropriate hand-washing etiquette, social distance up to three feet when possible; students will not be required to wear masks outside. They will not be required to wear masks during lunch time until they finish eating, then they will need to replace their masks,” Schmidlen said

Schmidlen added schools will not be using plexiglass because it is not recommended in the “School Recovery and Guidance” document that has been provided by the West Virginia Department of Education.

Parents and families seeking more information are instructed to go to the Randolph County Schools Facebook page.


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