Catholic schools on the Eastern Shore of Maryland will be mask-optional beginning Feb. 15 as the caseload of COVID-19 cases has decreased significantly, according to the superintendent of schools in the Diocese of Wilmington.
Delaware Catholic schools should not be far behind, said Lou De Angelo, head of schools in the diocese that includes facilities in both Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
Currently in Delaware, all students and staff in public, charter, and private schools are under mandatory emergency regulations by the governor to wear masks through March 31, De Angelo said, adding that he anticipates moving to mask-optional on April 1.
Families will make their own decision about wearing masks, he said.
“If a parent or guardian requires a student to wear a mask, compliance with mask wearing is between the parent or guardian and the student,” De Angelo wrote in a letter to parents. “School administration, faculty, and staff will not be responsible to monitor and maintain individual requests. School staff and visitors will also have the option to wear a mask or not.”
De Angelo said the schools office is waiting until the state-mandated deadline in Delaware to announce the loosening of mask regulations in the event the emergency regulations change for some reason over the next six weeks.
“All school families in Maryland and Delaware are reminded that vaccination remains the primary means to protect students from serious illness as a result of contracting COVID and to reduce the spread of COVID to others,” De Angelo wrote in letters to parents and staff. “Social distancing and regular handwashing or hand sanitizing continue to be effective mitigation strategies. Encouraging student socialization outdoors, when possible, is another valuable idea.
“You are reminded that vaccination remains the primary means to protect yourself from serious illness as a result of contracting COVID and to reduce the spread of COVID to others. Social distancing and regular handwashing or hand sanitizing continue to be effective mitigation strategies.”
He said schools will continue to follow CDC and health department guidance regarding students or staff who test positive for COVID or who have been identified as a close contact.
“In broad terms this means, those who test positive for COVID must isolate for five days and, if no symptoms persist, wear a mask for an additional five days,” De Angelo said. “Close contact quarantine and mask-wearing is vaccine-dependent. More complete details would be provided by the school nurse depending upon individual cases.”
In his message to staff, De Angelo lauded their efforts through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic in the last two years.
“While the road hasn’t been an easy one, you have allowed teaching and learning to continue. We are grateful to you, our school heroes – administrators, teachers, and staff – who were present throughout COVID to ensure quality Catholic education flourished. You faced potential challenges to your health and those with whom you live, but showed up for school each day. Know that your sacrifices have not gone unnoticed and are deeply appreciated.”