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Irving Middle School students wear face masks in class (via FCPS)

Updated at 11:50 a.m. — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted 8-1 this morning to support the continued mask requirement in schools and approved a letter directing Virginia to work with local health and school officials on metrics for making masks optional.

Earlier: When students across Fairfax County returned to classrooms today (Tuesday), they came wearing the most contentious, must-have accessory of the school year: face masks.

While the devices have become the subject of fierce political debate, Fairfax County Public Schools officials say that tension has not carried over into school buildings, where they have encountered few issues with getting students and staff to wear masks.

Just 40 out of the division’s nearly 180,000 students have been cited for not wearing a mask since the requirement took effect on Aug. 20, FCPS Assistant Superintendent of Special Services Michelle Boyd said at a virtual town hall meeting last night (Monday).

“Certainly, students have had to be reminded to pull your face mask up and potentially to wear it appropriately, as we all have to have reminders,” Boyd said. “But by and large, we want to celebrate that FCPS students have stepped up and answered the call to keep themselves safe, to keep their friends safe, and to keep their community safe.”

Officials say the mask-wearing requirement, combined with vaccinations, testing, and other mitigation protocols, has proven effective so far at limiting the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

Fairfax County Public Schools says nearly all students have complied with its face mask requirement (via FCPS/Facebook)

As of today, FCPS students, staff, and visitors have reported 6,362 Covid cases since August, including 2,681 cases this month — double the 1,317 cases seen in December.

Boyd noted that the number of cases still represents just a fraction of the district’s 206,111 students and staff, and while there have been 36 outbreaks reported, consisting of 155 cases, there have not been any since students returned from winter break on Jan. 10.

Unlike some other school systems in the area, FCPS has not reverted any schools to virtual learning due to Covid.

Still, with the school system seeing more cases than ever and community transmission levels high, albeit declining, Superintendent Scott Brabrand says FCPS needs to “stay the course” and maintain its current health and safety practices.

“We all seek a moment when we can go to creating mask-optional conditions, but now is not the time at the greatest surge we’ve ever had in the pandemic,” Brabrand said, stating later that FCPS is working with health officials to establish metrics for when to roll back masking and other requirements.

Whether FCPS will be allowed to continue with universal masking, however, is up to the courts after the county school board joined six other localities in filing a lawsuit yesterday to prevent Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order directing schools to make masks optional from taking effect. Read More

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