By Callie Hietala
Henry County Public School students, faculty, and staff now get to choose whether or not they wear a mask both in the schools and on school buses.
The change comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced updated mask guidelines last week.
According to CDC data, Henry County is listed as low risk area for COVID-19 transmission, Schools Superintendent Sandy Strayer said at the county school board’s March 3 meeting.
The CDC website indicates that those living in areas of low risk do not have to wear masks indoors, but should continue to get tested if they have COVID-19 symptoms. Those in areas of medium risk who are at high risk for severe illness should discuss masking indoors and other precautions with their healthcare provider, while those in areas designated as a high risk should wear masks indoors in public places.
The website notes that people with symptoms, a positive COVID-19 test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should wear a mask, regardless of the designated risk level of their community.
Strayer said the next step for school administrators is to review social distancing guidelines. She said that both high schools moved back to lunch in the cafeterias that week, and that middle schools should be moving back into their cafeterias this week.
The move will, she said, provide more of the social time that students need.
In other matters, the board:
*Heard a proclamation from the Virginia School Board Association (VSBA) recognizing March 2022 as Equity in Education Month.
*Recognized March 2022 as Music In Our Schools Month.
*Recognized March 6-12, 2022 as School Social Work Week.
*Recognized March 7-11, 2022 as National School Breakfast Week.
*Recognized the division’s common form assessment team for mathematics, which was one of 2 teams statewide to win a team award from the Virginia Association for School Curriculum and Development (VASCD).
*Approved the consent agenda.
*Approved the purchase of Apple devices and accessories for students and staff in an effort to continue the 1:1 iPad initiative. Purchase of iPads, cases, and mobile device management software (MDM) for 1st, 5th, and 9th grade students is estimated at $750,000 which could come from pending availability of year-end fund from the 2022 fiscal year (FY), ESSER II grant funds, or the technology or instruction budgets for FY 2023. The purchase of iPad pencils for teachers, estimated at $58,000, would come from the FY22 instruction budget, while the purchase of additional accessories (up to $100,000) could come from year-end FY22 funds, ESSR II grant funds, the FY23 technology budget, or the tech fee budget.
*Approved up to $150,000 from the FY2022 instructional budget for the purchase of interactive boards for classrooms.
*Approved the continued health insurance coverage with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
*Approved a $300,000 Virginia School Screening Testing for Assurance (ViSSTA) program grant provided by the Virginia Department of Health for expenses related to testing and other issues related to COVID-19. The appropriation will be forwarded to the Henry County Board of Supervisors.