CHARLESTON, W.Va. — School districts across West Virginia are waiting to hear from the state Department of Education about updated guidance on mask wearing in schools as students and teachers prepare to head back to the classroom.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new recommendations this week suggesting students in all grades wear masks in school regardless of their vaccine status.
Will Hosaflook, superintendent of Wood County Schools, said that will not be the case in his county, unless the state decides otherwise.
“We are going to start the school year without masks, but that can change any second,” Hosaflook told MetroNews.
During a Thursday briefing at the state Capitol, Governor Jim Justice said he has no plans to reissue a mask mandate in schools despite rising COVID-19 cases statewide.
“We don’t see any need to move toward addition mitigation measures at this moment,” Justice said.
Mercer County Schools Superintendent Edward Toman told WVNS-TV he wants to follow the CDC’s recommendations, but is waiting to hear from the state.
Hosaflook said he would encourage everyone in his school district to wear masks regardless of whether they’re vaccinated or not, but that it wouldn’t be required. Schools would still need to follow COVID safety measures.
“We’re not going to abandon all the things that we did last year such as cleaning desks, cleaning school buses every day, trying to stay in cohort groups. A lot of the same mitigation strategies will stay in place,” he said.
A spokesperson with the state DOE told MetroNews they’re planning on releasing guidance for the upcoming school year sometime next week.
“We’ll look at that guidance and I’ll bring the leadership team of Wood County together and we’ll go from there,” Hosaflook said.
Justice on Thursday encouraged more students over the age of 12 to get vaccinated before returning to school.
“From the stand point of getting our kids vaccinated, we would highly recommend that. The more we get vaccinated, the better off we’ll be,” Justice said.
Following last year’s lockdown and virtual lessons, Hosaflook said students learn better when they’re in-person, masked or not.
“We need kids face-to-face in school. That is the most important aspect right now. We need teachers in front of our students and we need students in front of our teachers,” he said. “We will do everything in our power to make that happen.”
The latest COVID-19 numbers from the state Department of Health and Human Resources on Friday showed more than 2,000 active cases. There are 100 Delta variant cases, which is more than double the amount reported a week ago.