Starting Monday, Columbia Public Schools will require masks indoors and on school buses for all students, employees and visitors, regardless of vaccination status.
Masks will not be required outdoors.
According to an email sent to students’ families Friday afternoon, the district anticipates approximately 19,000 students and 3,000 employees will be on its 42 campuses this coming semester.
“Wearing masks indoors is one mitigation strategy that will provide an additional layer of protection to keep all students and staff safe and in school,” the email reads. “We want to start the year together, in person, and do our best to keep it that way.”
The requirement aligns with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends universal indoor masking for people in K-12 schools regardless of vaccination status.
Some individuals who come into contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 will not be required to quarantine based on their status. The reasons for exemptions are as follows:
- The individual is fully vaccinated and has no symptoms.
- The individual has no symptoms, has “consistently and correctly” worn a mask and has stayed at least 3 feet away from the positive individual for less than 15 minutes over a 24-hour time period.
- The individual has tested positive in the past, completed the isolation period within the past three months and has no symptoms.
For individuals who fall outside of these parameters, the district will require a quarantine period of either seven or 10 days. If individuals receive a negative COVID test between days five and seven of their quarantine, they are allowed to end it on the seventh day.
During the summer semester, an increase of COVID-19 cases prompted the district to require masks for students 11 and younger.
The district continues to encourage eligible members of the community to get vaccinated. Children younger than 12 cannot get vaccinated, but children 12 and older are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine.
All Columbia Public Schools students will return to the classroom by Aug. 26.
“We look forward to seeing all of our students in person beginning August 23 for Jumpstart Day for students in grades 6 and 9, August 24 for grades 1-12 and August 26 for kindergarten,” the district said in the letter sent to parents.
A detailed outline of the district’s COVID-19 plan is available on its website.