Monongalia County Schools superintendent Eddie Campbell said they have reviewed and in some areas have relaxed their response plan after meeting with Monongalia County Health Officer Dr. Lee Smith.
“He gave us the green light and said he thought we were okay to go ahead and lift the masks with the caveat that if things went south or if things started to pick up because of COVID that he would maybe step back in and say we have to tighten things up a little bit,” Campbell said during an recent appearance on WAJR Radio’s “Talk of the Town.”
The comments came before the CDC announcement back on Friday urging schools across the U.S. to fully open this fall. The agency recommends local health data be used to guide decisions whether to relax or strengthen provisions.
In Monongalia County, pandemic practices adopted in buildings like traffic patterns, adjusting lunch schedules to limit gatherings and good hygiene are some of the things that will remain in place, Campbell said.
“We’ll keep our extra cleaning crews around not just for COVID, but when flu season hits,” Campbell said. “If we get a spike in flu in our building it makes good sense.”
Through the course of the pandemic school administrators shuffled schedules, conducted intensive cleanings, learned contact tracing and quarantine policies to ensure safety. Coronavirus quarantines had the greatest impact on teachers and athletic programs creating additional challenges in keeping students and programs operational.
“The biggest thing I think we’ve learned is that we have to adaptable and we have to be willing to adjust on the fly,” Campbell said. “I think we were very successful doing that.”
The mask policy will be an individual choice for those fully vaccinated. Many elementary school students or staff members may elect to continue wearing a mask regardless of vaccine status.
“If a student is sick- number one, we’re going to encourage kids to stay home and number two, if you’re sick or you’ve got a sniffle or something like that then wear a mask to school to prevent the spread of a cold flu, whatever the case may be,” Campbell said.
Health experts agree that the vaccine is effective against the variants, can prevent hospitalization and reduce severity of the illness for people who become infected. Additionally, data shows up to 98% of coronavirus-related deaths are people that have not been vaccinated.
“It’s not for political reasons or belief in one way or the other,” Campbell said. “It’s simply because if kids and adults have that vaccine in the school setting they don’t have to be quarantined if they’re exposed to a case of COVID, so it protects students and keeps them in a classroom.”
Monongalia County teachers return to work Aug. 19. Students will begin classes Aug. 24.