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Back to school: COVID-19 in RSS, K-12 schools

Rowan-Salisbury Schools students and faculty members are neither required to be vaccinated nor wear masks in buildings to start the year because of a vote by the Board of Education on July 12. That masks are optional also extends to visitors.

“If you feel it is in the best interest of your student(s) or yourself to wear a mask while on any RSS campus or facility, we welcome you and/or your student(s) to continue the practice of wearing a mask,” Marketing and Communications Director Tracey Lewis said in a letter to parents. “We appreciate your understanding and cooperation as we move forward into a new school year. We have high expectations that by working together we can keep our schools healthy, safe, and open for our staff, students, parents and community.”

The district says it’s working to create additional guidance related to the fact that masks are optional.

Federal guidance

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers the following coronavirus-related tips for K-12 schools:

• Students benefit from in-person learning, and safely returning to in-person instruction in the fall 2021 is a priority.

• Vaccination is currently the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic.  Promoting vaccination can help schools safely return to in-person learning as well as extracurricular activities and sports.

• Masks should be worn indoors by all individuals (age 2 and older) who are not fully vaccinated. Consistent and correct mask use by people who are not fully vaccinated is especially important indoors and in crowded settings, when physical distancing cannot be maintained.

• CDC recommends schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms, combined with indoor mask wearing by people who are not fully vaccinated, to reduce transmission risk. When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet it is especially important to layer multiple other prevention strategies such as indoor masking.

• Screening testing, ventilation, handwashing and respiratory etiquette, staying home when sick and getting tested, contact tracing in combination with quarantine and isolation, and cleaning and disinfection are also important layers of prevention to keep schools safe.

• Students, teachers, and staff should stay home when they have signs of any infectious illness and be referred to their health care provider for testing and care.

• Many schools serve children under the age of 12 who are not eligible for vaccination at this time. Therefore, this guidance emphasizes  using multiple prevention strategies together consistently to protect people who are not fully vaccinated, including students, teachers, staff, and other members of their households.

• COVID-19 prevention strategies remain critical to protect people, including students, teachers, and staff, who are not fully vaccinated, especially in areas of moderate-to-high community transmission levels. (Rowan County is among the communities with a high transmission level)

• Localities should monitor community transmission, vaccination coverage, screening testing, and occurrence of outbreaks to guide decisions on the level of layered prevention strategies.

Vaccinations

The Rowan County Health Department still has two education-focused vaccination clinics scheduled before classes start next week. Today from noon to 3 p.m. Rowan Health Department staff will administer vaccines to anyone interested at West Rowan Elementary School, 480 Mimosa St. in Cleveland. Another clinic is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday at the Wallace Educational Forum, 500 North Main St. in Salisbury.

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