Written by: Prince William County Public Schools
Letter from Dr. LaTanya D. McDade:
PWCS Students, Families, Employees, and Community,
It’s been nearly one month since I became Superintendent of Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS). I have had numerous conversations with parents, students, educators, faculty and staff, and members from the greater Prince William County community. Each has left me inspired and encouraged; we will indeed benefit from the richness of diversity as we continue working to ensure each of our nearly 90,000 students receive a World-Class Education.
On August 23, we will begin a new school year, and safety will remain top of mind for everyone, for caregivers and families, for educators and staff, and for all of us across Prince William County. Our students are best served in person. We know this paves the way for the greatest outcomes for everyone and is important for students’ academic progress, social-emotional growth, and well-being. There will be a large number of students returning, and we are taking precautions to ensure every student’s safety and to minimize disruptions to learning.
My commitment is to the safety of all students, teachers, employees, and families. And we are committed to limiting disruptions to student learning caused by quarantines or illnesses, as well as ensuring we have the staffing necessary to avoid shuttering classrooms or schools.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status. The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is supporting universal masking for students. Additionally, Virginia law (SB1303) requires in-person instruction be available to all students, and to the maximum extent practicable, schools follow mitigation strategies that have been provided by the CDC.
Universal indoor masking will be required in all PWCS schools at the start of the 2021-22 school year for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status with some exceptions. Additional exceptions may include medical conditions or students whose disability may prevent masking. Through masking, our schools will be:
- Maintaining a layer of mitigation for staff and students when physical distancing is not possible.
- Significantly reducing potential disruption to the educational environment caused by student quarantines.
- Providing time for vaccines to become available at all ages and for more students to receive vaccinations.
- Reducing potential impacts to staffing due to employee illness or quarantine.
PWCS 2021-22 School Year Start Mask Guidance
|Indoors — students present||Yes|
(exception for vaccinated staff when inhibiting instructional delivery**)
|Indoors — eating||No||No|
|Indoors — PE||Yes||Yes|
|Outdoors — PE, recess with physical distance, athletics, bus stop||No||No|
|Indoors — athletics||No||Recommended|
|Indoors — chorus||Yes||Yes|
|Indoors — woodwind and brass instruments||No||No|
|Indoors — no students present||No||Yes|
|Indoors — central offices||No||Yes|
(As of July 30, 2021)
* Exceptions for a person who cannot wear a mask, or cannot safely wear a mask, because of a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq.).
** Such as teachers working with early learners, English learners, and/or students who receive speech language services — when critical to teach concepts using facial cues or phonetics).
Many of us are experiencing pandemic fatigue and a real desire to return to normal. However, we are still in this together and will get through this.
My team and I will continue monitoring both the CDC and the VDH. As conditions and guidance change, we will be prepared to adjust mitigation policies in the best interest of our students and families. For more information and additional details on school opening, please visit the Back-to-School Plan School Year 2021-22 webpage.
LaTanya D. McDade, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools