Mask Guidance – Updated August 9, 2021

Dear Roanoke Catholic Family,

We hope you have had a wonderful summer and are as excited as we all are about the fast-approaching return to school in less than two weeks! We know you have been eagerly awaiting to learn more about what the return to school will look like this year and we now have more information about that from diocesan leadership.

Please see the letter of guidance from the diocese below. This has been thoroughly reviewed and edited by our diocesan COVID response team and leadership including Bishop Knestout, Fr. Boehling, and our legal counsel.

  • The diocese is recommending masks per the CDC and VDH guidance, but not mandating what has not been mandated.
  • The exception being bus transportation. In the latest CDC guidance there is language that REQUIRES masks on school buses – and it is stated for both public and private schools buses, so masks are required by both the drivers and all students regardless of vaccination status. If parents do not want their child to wear a mask on a bus then they need to provide their own transportation from schools. This would also include busing to sports events and field trips.
  • The “law” that Governor Northam mentioned last week – SB1303 does not apply to private schools and even if it did, we would not be breaking any law. It states that public schools provide in-person instruction and follow CDC guidance – both of which we are doing.
  • As we were so successful for having done last year, we will continue to have multiple layers of prevention strategies in place.

We are so blessed at RCS to have had the successful year we did last year, and to be eagerly anticipating another on the horizon. We are always striving in everything we do to hold fast to our core mission of caring for, and developing your child as a whole person; mind, body and spirit. With your continued support and diligence, we have more great success stories to look forward to!

God bless you in these last weeks of summer and know how much we look forward to reconvening on campus.
Patrick, Chris and Nikki

August 9, 2021

Dear School Administrators, Faculty, Staff, and Parents,

I hope that this letter finds you well. This letter serves as an update to the guidance being given to all our Diocesan Catholic Schools regarding the wearing of masks in our schools.
At this time, along with other measures to ensure a safe educational environment, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention {CDC) and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) recommend- but do not mandate – indoor masking for all individuals aged 2 years and older, including students, teachers, staff, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status.
We take this guidance very seriously. Therefore, the Office of Catholic Schools encourages administrators, teachers, and staff- along with encouraging parents, volunteers, and students -to make prudent decisions concerning the recent CDC-recommended guidance for schools dated August 5, 2021.
  • Indoors: CDC recommends indoor masking for all individuals aged 2 years and older, including students, teachers, staff, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status.
  • Outdoors: In general, people do not need to wear masks when outdoors. CDC recommends that people who are not fully vaccinated wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings or during activities that involve sustained close contact with other people,
  • School Buses: passengers and drivers must wear a mask on school buses, including on buses operated by public and private school systems, subject to the exclusions and exemptions allowed by the CDC.
In addition to recommending masks, the following guidance is being given to Diocesan Schools:
  • Multiple layers of prevention strategies should be in place. Strategies in our schools will include handwashing, respiratory etiquette, proper ventilation, cleaning, disinfecting, and incorporating distancing, when possible. Schools will notify their communities of what school-specific strategies will be in place.
  • It is critical that faculty, staff, and students closely monitor their health and must stay at home when they are having any symptoms of infectious illness. Students or employees who are exhibiting symptoms or have a temperature over 100.4 degrees will be sent home and not be able to return until their symptoms have subsided, and they are temperature free without fever reducing medicines for at least 24 hours.
  • Schools will still monitor exposure and positive cases. Contract tracing will be conducted, and quarantining based on current CDC and VDH recommendations for those exposed to and positive for COVID-19 will be followed. Only individuals directly exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 will be notified. The wearing of masks and being fully vaccinated may reduce the need to quarantine if exposed to someone with COVID-19.
Additional Information:
  • In keeping with the language of the CDC and previous diocesan guidelines, masks are being recommended, not required, when indoors at school but are required on school buses.
  • We encourage and fully support all adults and students who wear masks while at our schools – indoors and outdoors.
  • Masks may be required for school Masses if proper distancing cannot be in place. Schools will notify you directly.
  • Our schools will not require COVID-19 vaccinations, disclosure of COVID-19 vaccination status, proof of COVID-19 vaccination, or COVID-19 testing of any individuals.
  • If the CDC or VDH guidance changes or Executive Orders are put into place that require us to alter these plans, you will be notified.
Last year at this time, there was a lot of uncertainty as we prepared for the opening of school. Our plans worked, and we had a very successful and safe academic year during the height of the pandemic. I am looking forward to another successful and safe school year. It Is vital that throughout this school year we extend grace to all and treat each other with the respect we all deserve as God’s children.
I am grateful for all the hard work of our school administrators, leadership teams, faculty, staff, and school advisory boards as they make their final preparations for the opening of school. I am thankful to all our parents and students for supporting their schools and for their commitment to Catholic education.
Yours in Christ,
Kelly M. Lazzara
Superintendent of Schools