Students, staff must wear them beginning today

The joyful return to in-person learning several weeks ago has now been overshadowed by rising numbers in positive Covid-19 cases around the county, and Superintendent Jeff Pancione said that while this decision may not be a popular one, it’s a necessary one.

“It’s not an easy decision,” he said Tuesday morning. “But our focus is on students and education, and the goal is to continue in-person learning.”

After consulting with local health officials and head nurse Rhonda Dante, today marks a return to masked classrooms here in the county.

Pancione commented that while numbers have been increasing countywide, there is good news to focus on.

“Staff and students are in school,” he said, pointing out that in-person learning is already more well-received than virtual school. “We have tired of Covid, but it’s time to mask up for a while.” 

Beginning today, Hampshire County Schools will be following state Covid guidelines for schools with a universal mask policy.

The Covid transmission map is a good guide, Pancione said.

If the county is in Orange or Red, masks are required indoors and on buses.

If the county is in the lower stages of transmission (Green, Yellow or Gold), then masks are not required, but they are recommended.

In layman’s terms, that means that if masks were worn at the point of exposure to a person with Covid, students don’t have to quarantine.

Additionally, vaccinated students will also not have to quarantine.

Right now, there are several grades currently closed around the county due to Covid outbreaks: the entire 6th grade at Romney Middle, a 5th grade class and a kindergarten class at Capon Bridge Elementary and a 3rd grade class at Romney Elementary.

State guidance defines an outbreak in a school as multiple Covid cases within a specified core group (a classroom, extracurricular, sports team, etc.).

If a student has been quarantined, it means they also must refrain from extracurricular activities such as athletics or clubs. Vaccinated students do not need to quarantine if they are not showing any Covid symptoms.

Pancione added that when school started Aug. 23, he was hopeful, as was the rest of the community, that Hampshire was headed back to “normal” within the schools, but now, masks are a necessity in order to further the ultimate goal:

“The focus is on educating students,” Pancione said simply.

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