D.C. schools to relax some covid protocols ahead of first day


D.C. Public Schools will relax some of its coronavirus protocols to align with updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, system leaders said during a back-to-school town hall on Thursday.

Students and employees who are exposed to the virus will need to quarantine only if they show symptoms, officials said. Schools will also stop conducting daily health screenings when children arrive on campus, instead shifting the responsibility onto parents and guardians to check for symptoms. Masks will remain optional in school buildings, leaders said.

However, D.C. schools will continue to enforce measures including “test-to-return,” which requires students and staff to show proof of a negative coronavirus test for the first day of school. Officials introduced the policy last academic year amid an omicron variant surge.

“We believe that this is an important strategy because it really limits the possibility for us to have asymptomatic individuals on our campus with covid at the beginning of the school year,” said Bren Elliott, chief of school improvement and supports.

D.C. schools expand covid vaccine mandate, unlike most other districts

D.C. children ages 12 and up will also need to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus to attend class — among the strictest mandates in the country. School officials during the town hall pleaded with families to make sure their students are up-to-date on the vaccine, as well as immunizations for other illnesses.

Elliott touted upcoming mobile clinics at public and charter schools throughout the city. With just under two weeks until the first day of school, 83 percent of kids between 12 and 15 have completed their primary series of coronavirus vaccinations, according to data published by the city.

And, persisting racial disparities threaten student attendance for children who experienced disproportionately large academic setbacks during the pandemic. Just 61 percent of Black students between 12 and 15 have been fully immunized, compared with 100 percent of White students in that age group.

Students have 20 days after the first day of school to get their shots and remain in class, according to the district. The Office of the State Superintendent of Education will host weekly vaccination events throughout next month.

CDC eases school guidance on quarantines, testing, screening

D.C. unveiled its coronavirus vaccine mandate for children over 12 this summer. The 13-member D.C. Council passed legislation last year to require students to be immunized against the virus once the drugs received full authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.

But coronavirus vaccine mandates are rare at this point in the pandemic. Many universities, public school districts and workplaces have moved away from such policies, instead encouraging individuals to get immunized.

The policy…

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