Shenandoah County Public Schools will not require students to wear masks when the school year begins next week.

The school system sent out a message to all parents/guardians late Wednesday afternoon by email or phone to let them know that although the division is highly recommending masks be worn in schools, it will not be requiring them.

The message, which Shenandoah County Superintendent Melody Sheppard sent in an email to The Northern Virginia Daily, said that last week the Virginia Department of Health and education released its COVID-19 guidance and recommendations for schools and is leaving it up to each school division to decide what is best for them.

The message said that the school system has examined the COVID-19 case data and the vaccination data for Shenandoah County and spoken with principals, staff, parents, community members and health officials before making the decision.

According to the message the school division sent, students will still be required to wear masks on buses and all other school transportation through at least Sept. 15 due to the federal public transportation order.

“Our primary goal is to keep schools open for in-person learning and to keep all of our students and staff healthy and safe,” the message states. “As we start the school year, we will continue to evaluate the data and review new guidance as it is released. If transmission or outbreaks occur in our schools, or if case counts spike in our community, we will adapt our mask policy accordingly.”

The first day of school in Shenandoah County is Aug. 5.

The plan is for students to attend school in-person five days a week.

The message said that there have been some positive trends in the COVID data over the past two months and that in Shenandoah County fewer than 10 new cases have been reported each day since June. The CDC indicator for community transmission has been in the low or moderate category since June. The message also said that there were no cases reported for summer school, although masks were required for summer school.

The message ends with “please keep in mind that our primary goal is to keep schools open. We will adjust our policy as needed to keep our students in school.”

– Contact Tommy Keeler Jr. at tkeeler@nvdaily.com