Changes to Universal Masking for Students Begin March 1 and Additional Health and Safety Updates

By Office of Communication and Community Relations
February 25, 2022

Dear FCPS Families,

This Tuesday, March 1, state legislation goes into effect that allows parents/guardians to elect for their children to not wear a mask in schools. As a school division, we continue to be concerned about the health of our Fairfax community and strongly recommend that all students continue to participate in universal masking for the protection of students and staff with health concerns.

As we work through this change, we will honor our value of a caring culture. We will respect each other and show compassion and kindness for those who have different needs and viewpoints. At the center of everything we do is the children we serve. It is their well-being that we must work to protect.

Please review the following information about upcoming changes.

To Elect For Your Child Not to Wear a Mask in School

Starting March 1, parents and guardians may elect for their children not to wear a mask on school property. There will be no formal process required for those who elect for their child not to wear a mask on school property, including during School Age Child Care (SACC). Please talk with your child before March 1 so they will be aware of your family’s preference for mask wearing at school. 

Exceptions

Universal mask wearing continues to apply in the following scenarios::

  • On school buses/vans (federal requirement)
  • During off-campus activities where masks are required by the venue (ex: field trip)
  • Students enrolled in Head Start Program (federal requirement)
  • When attending school on days 6-10 of a quarantine (families who do not want their student to wear a mask on these days will need to complete the full 10 day quarantine at home.)
  • When participating in Test to Stay

Respecting Student Choice and Need

Teachers and school staff will not treat students differently based on their choice. This includes seating arrangements in classrooms, cafeterias, or other gathering spaces. Please refer to the FCPS website for guidance around bullying behaviors as referenced in the SR&R. Families of special needs children who may need additional consideration for health reasons should work with their IEP or 504 teams.

Mask Requirement Continues for Adults

All adults, including staff, visitors and volunteers must continue to wear a mask on school property. We will continue to follow our roll back plan, shared earlier this month, which will be implemented when we reach moderate transmission, and remain there for seven days. This week, we saw our community transmission level drop into the substantial category and we anticipate we could be at or very close to moderate community transmission as early as next week. FCPS will formally announce when we are ready to make this transition.

Contact Tracing

FCPS will support contact tracing in limited circumstances when identified by local health officials. Families will be notified if a positive case (student or staff) is reported in their child’s class. 

Quarantine and Isolation

Schools will not direct students to pause or quarantine unless identified as a close contact during a school-based outbreak. Students will continue to complete a 10-day isolation period following a positive COVID diagnosis. Families are asked to follow CDC and Health Department guidance for quarantine and isolation. 

Test to Stay

Test to Stay allows students to remain in school as long as they test negative for the first five days following a close contact exposure. Currently, test to stay is, and will remain, available at seven pilot schools for all cases.

Beginning March 14, Test to Stay will also be available at every school in the event of an outbreak.

  • Families will be given information and will decide if they want to participate.
  • Testing occurs at home through a home self-test (BinaxNOW home test kits).
  • Students must wear a mask to school during the Test to Stay timeline in order to participate.

These changes are evidence that we are entering a new phase of the pandemic. We want all families to be confident that their children are learning in a safe, supportive environment. Our steps forward will be measured and guided by expert recommendations and local health data. 

Up-to-date health and safety information can be found in the Health and Safety Guidance Document. We expect updated CDC guidance soon, possibly this afternoon. We will confer with our health experts about how any new guidance impacts our health and safety plans. Changes and updates will be communicated with you via email, newsletters, and our website. 

Thank you for working with us to keep our students learning in-person, and continuing on their paths to success.

Scott S. Brabrand, Superintendent

Fairfax County Public Schools

Read the School Board Statement