WASHINGTON — Parents, teachers and students in the DMV region have started to get a glimpse at what masks protocols will look like for in-person learning this fall. And while many school districts across D.C., Maryland and Virginia may have different mask rules, one thing is certain: It will be a work in progress through the beginning of the school year.
On Sunday, the American Academy of Pediatrics [AAP] urged schools to update their masking policies in advance of the new school year. Specifically, the organization recommended all staff and students within school buildings, who are two years or older, wear face masks unless medical or developmental conditions prohibit their use.
Vienna resident and Fairfax County Schools parent Richard Rolsen said it is important that school districts considered the needs of students who do have special conditions like the AAP stated.
“We have a young son who is on the spectrum for autism and with his needs, his ability to communicate and to understand teachers, we need flexibility,” he said.
The AAP also pointed out that some schools may lack the resources needed to monitor the vaccine status of their students for them to properly enforce mask guidelines based on vaccination status.
“As we start the 2021-’22 school year, a large portion of students are not eligible to be vaccinated and there are COVID variants that are more contagious,” said Dr. Sonja O’Leary, chair of the AAP Council on School Health Executive Committee, in a statement.
In other cases, Fairfax County Schools parents, like Rohipt, said masks should be required for students inside schools.
“Sometimes, [kids] don't behave the way you want in the school,” Rohipt said. “And, the Coronavirus is increasing also here now.”
Rohipt's comments reference recent COVID-19 case numbers that show increased infections in the DMV region.
Ronald Alan Hall, a student in Loudoun County Public Schools, said he is not crazy about masks, but he will wear them anyway this upcoming school year.
“Masks are quite uncomfortable, but I will do it to protect my fellow students and I think everyone watching this [story] should too,” he said.
Just like AAP, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) agrees masks should still be worn in the upcoming school year by any person age 2 and above who is not fully vaccinated. However, the agency has also announced that certain school districts may see fit to adopt universal mask requirements depending on local pandemic conditions.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said in June that when schools across the state open in the fall, students should not have to wear masks and social distancing should not be needed. That was before recent upticks in numbers for the virus that are being seen in multiple states across the nation.