Falls Church City allows parents to opt students out from masking

On Monday, a policy went into effect in the Falls Church City, Virginia, public schools to allow parents to opt their children out of masking requirements on school property.

In a letter sent to the school community last week, FCPS Superintendent Dr. Peter J. Noonan attributed the change in mask policy to dropping rates of COVID-19 infection in Falls Church following January’s spike.

Though plans for loosening the mask requirement were announced last month, Noonan highlighted a few additions regarding testing.

According to the new rules, all unvaccinated students whose parents have opted them out of masking no longer have to participate in PCR testing.

Noonan also laid out the guidelines that had been determined by FCPS in January:

  • In determining quarantine after reported infection, the 3- to 6-foot exemption for students as “close contacts” only applies when both students are fully masked. If one of the students is unmasked, then both students will be required to quarantine, per CDC guidance. However, vaccinated close contacts are not required to quarantine if they have no symptoms of illness.
  • For students who test positive for COVID-19, the five-day quarantine rules remain in effect. On days 6-10 (after quarantine begins), all students who return to school must wear a mask — regardless of vaccination or mask exemption status — or remain in quarantine for the full 10 days, with online remote learning options.
  • All students are still required to wear masks on school buses, per a federal requirement for masking on public transit.
  • Parents who wish to opt-out their child’s from mask requirements must fill out a form and deliver a hard copy to their child’s school.

In his letter, Noonan asked that parents, when considering their options on masking, think about all members of the school community.

“Our schools are not just filled with children (some of whom have serious health conditions, are immunocompromised, and are considered high risk). We also have 500 staff members in FCCPS dedicated daily to their work. We have immunocompromised staff, who are transplant recipients, and who have underlying health conditions,” Noonan said. “I ask you to remember that we are part of a bigger community of people and must look out for each other.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — This story has been updated to reflect that non-vaccinated students aren’t required to do PCR testing).

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Joshua Barlow

Joshua Barlow is a writer, composer, and producer who has worked for CGTN, Atlantic Public Media, and National Public Radio. He lives in Northeast Washington, D.C., where he pays attention to developments in his neighborhood, economic issues, and social justice.

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