Masks are now required for all students and staff members in Fayette County schools.

A Fayette County Schools media advisory Monday indicated that all students and staff had to wear masks or shields when they returned to the classrooms on Tuesday, Sept. 7 after a brief holiday break.

The decision resulted from new guidance to county school systems from the West Virginia Department of Education working in concert with State Health Officer Dr. Ayne Amjad and the Department of Health and Human Resources' Bureau for Public Health.

The move is to assure that schools will remain open throughout the county and to minimize the need for quarantining, school officials said.

The guidance has been provided on the Fayette County Board of Education website, There are changes highlighted in red on pages 9-10 dealing with masking and quarantining.

According to the advisory, Fayette County Schools has had to quarantine 788 students and close two schools since the beginning of the school year.

The school system revealed 51 positive Covid-19 cases at schools last week.

As of late last week, Meadow Bridge High School was in remote learning until Sept. 7, and Gauley Bridge Elementary was in remote learning until Sept. 10.

Officials say individual schools will assist with methods to prevent Covid-19 spread at extracurricular activities and in lunch settings.

When a mask requirement is in place and if a student can't wear a mask/shield for medical or psychological reasons, parents or guardians are asked to supply the child's principal with the appropriate documentation. The documentation must be from a medical professional, and parents have to agree to the testing their child.

Changes from the guidelines for contact tracing for schools with a universal mask policy in place are as follows:

• For schools with a universal mask policy (regardless of DHHR map color), quarantining students and staff who have been exposed to a person with Covid-19 is not required if masks are worn at the point of exposure (including extracurricular activities).

• Schools should attempt to limit potential exposures while students are eating lunch by cohorting students who eat together or by eating in classrooms. This will reduce the risk of exposure to Covid-19.

Changes for contact tracing for schools with no universal mask policy include:

• For cases requiring quarantining, students who have been vaccinated do not have to quarantine. For unvaccinated students in a classroom, review class, bus and cafeteria seating charts, and only quarantine students who were less than 6 feet of an infected person, as opposed to quarantining an entire classroom. There are exceptions when quarantining an entire classroom is acceptable (e.g., greater than 10 percent of class is positive with Covid-19 or younger-aged children where identifying close contacts is not possible).

FCS had been going on a week-by-week basis to determine which schools were required to wear masks or shields in the coming week.

— Steve Keenan

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