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244 children quarantining; school superintendent asks parents to reconsider opting out of mask wearing

15.3% of students have exemptions to mask wearing so far

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Students arrive from buses at Fauquier High School Aug. 11.

Superintendent of Fauquier County Schools David Jeck announced in a video Tuesday night that 244 children are currently quarantined because they have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. As contract tracing continues, he said, that number will go up.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 16 students and four staff members across the school division have tested positive -- four students at P.B. Smith Elementary School (two reported Aug. 13 and two on Aug. 15); three at Greenville Elementary (two Aug. 13 and one Aug. 16); one at Auburn Middle School (reported Aug. 12); one at Fauquier High School (Aug. 16); three at Liberty High School (Aug. 16), and two at Grace Miller Elementary (Aug. 16 and 17). Two cases at Brumfield Elementary School were added to the school COVID-19 dashboard this afternoon (reported Aug. 17).

Staff members testing positive include one each at Auburn and Taylor middle schools and one each at Miller and Bradley elementary schools.

Jeck started off the communication by emphasizing that “We all have the same goal: keeping our kids safe and in school …

“So I'm asking for your help. And here it goes. First, whenever possible, please have your child wear a mask. Please.”

Jeck acknowledged that mask wearing has proved controversial. He said, “I know that this is a hot-button issue relative to politics and political leanings. And frankly, I don't care about those, I'm not interested in them. What I'm interested in is keeping our kids in school, and keeping them safe. And so whatever I can do, or we can do as a school division to make that happen, that's what we ought to do. No matter your opinions about vaccinations, or masks or anything else.”

He said that 15.3% of students currently are exempted from wearing a mask. Medical and religious exemptions were extended to families that checked a box on a Google form, indicating their child had a medical condition or a “sincerely held religious belief.” Fauquier County Schools would not ask for documentation or explanation, it was explained at a Aug. 13 school board meeting, so the process was streamlined.

In light of the rapid rise in cases and resulting quarantines, Jeck said, “… we all recognize and understand there are legitimate exemptions to mask wearing as provided within the state health commissioner's order. We all get that. But, what we're asking and what I'm asking specifically, is for you, as a family, to perhaps reconsider opting your child out of mask wearing.

“Why? Well, it goes back to our priorities. Masks offer another layer of protection against the virus. That's the keeping kids safe part. And also, masks help reduce the number of students who have to quarantine. And so as a result, they're staying in school. So I can't emphasize that enough. It's not only about keeping kids safe, it's also about making sure that they're in the buildings, which is what we all want.”

Jeck also said that because the mask mandate as it pertains to public transportation is a federal mandate and therefore much stricter, students need to absolutely wear masks on buses.

Vaccinations

In advocating for COVID-19 vaccinations for children older than 12, Jeck said, “… vaccinated students are much less likely to test positive… And the vaccinations help reduce the number of students who have to be quarantined.

“To give you an example of this and in real time, one of our schools today was facing over 60 quarantines as a result of contact tracing until it was revealed that many of these students had been vaccinated. That reduced the number of quarantined students in half. So that makes a difference in terms of keeping the kids in school. If they've been vaccinated and they're in contact with a student who tests positive, they're much, much less likely to have to be quarantined.”

The superintendent added that the Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District will be offering  additional pop-up vaccination centers in Fauquier. One will be held at the health department’s Fauquier office at 330 Hospital Drive in Warrenton and at Germanna College in Fredericksburg. Walk-ins are welcome, or those interested can make an appointment by calling 540-347-6400. Vaccinations will be offered the first and third Fridays of each month, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

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