Home Education and Careers Diocese of Wilmington schools office issues further guidance regarding COVID-19 protocols, masking

Diocese of Wilmington schools office issues further guidance regarding COVID-19 protocols, masking

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Students prepare for the Memorial Day Prayer Service May 28 at St. John the Beloved School in Wilmington. Masks will be required in schools in Delaware this fall, while parents will make that decision in Maryland. Dialog photo/Joseph P. Owens

Students in the Diocese of Wilmington will have to abide by COVID protocols in Delaware or Maryland, wherever they attend school, superintendent of schools Louis De Angelo wrote in letters to parents and guardians on Aug. 16. The letters contained updates from initial information released when Delaware Gov. John Carney announced earlier in August that masks would be required for students in kindergarten through 12th grade beginning Aug. 16.

In letters to residents of both states, De Angelo wrote that “vaccination is currently the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic.” He encouraged anyone age 12 or over to get one of the available vaccines. Students under the age of 12 currently are not eligible to be vaccinated.

One of the benefits of vaccination in Delaware schools is a more lenient quarantine requirement in case of exposure to a positive individual. For students at Delaware schools, unvaccinated teachers and staff considered a close contact will be required to quarantine and will be out of school for a minimum of seven days with appropriate testing or 10 days without testing, according to the letter. Vaccinated students and staff considered a close contact will not need to quarantine unless symptoms appear. Testing three to five days after exposure is encouraged. Procedures for Maryland schools were not specified, although school nurses will outline isolation and quarantine procedures in both states.

For Delaware students, masks are required in school buildings for all students, and for adults when students are present. Although the governor’s order is for kindergarten and older, the diocese is requiring masks for pre-K 3 and 4 students. Masks are also required at any indoor activity, including instruction, sports, rehearsals, assemblies, etc. Masks are also mandatory on school buses.

Students outdoors do not need to wear a mask, and face coverings are also not required for spectators at outdoor events. Catholic Youth Ministry will be beginning fall sports, including football, cross country and soccer, in the next month.

For youngsters who attend one of the schools in Maryland, the decision to wear a mask will be up to the parents and guardians. Gov. Larry Hogan has delegated mask-wearing decisions to county public school districts, with no stipulation for private schools. The decision on wearing masks extends to religious-education programs and indoor sports and activities.

The diocese is encouraging physical distancing whenever possible. The target setting is three feet, although De Angelo acknowledges that this might not always be viable. This applies in classrooms, cafeterias, gymnasiums, churches and other indoor settings. Random testing is encouraged.

Positive COVID-19 cases in Delaware will be reported to the state Department of Public Health. In Maryland, the department of public health in the county where the school is located will be notified. Directives issued by the school nurse will be followed, De Angelo said. Positive diagnoses will be relayed to other school families without any personal information about the student affected. De Angelo encourages parents to report positive cases for students in religious-education programs or CYM sports.