After COVID closure, mask mandate will continue for Colonial Heights students: 'It's the safest way'

Dr. William Sroufe: 'Everybody wears masks in school, regardless of vaccination status'
Posted at 7:40 PM, Jan 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-23 18:44:53-05

COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. -- The superintendent of Colonial Heights Schools said masks will still be required when students return to classes Monday because the district believes it is “the safest way to move ahead."

"Everybody wears masks in school, regardless of vaccination status," Dr. William Sroufe, the superintendent of Colonial Heights Public Schools, said.

The school system, which has nearly 3,500 students, faculty and staff, is still recovering from a three-day shutdown when positive cases spiked.

Sroufe previously said almost one in four students had been absent from school since the end of Winter Break.

"I do believe the numbers are too high to take the masks off," Sroufe explained.

The superintendent knows there will be more empty chairs as more than 390 students remain in quarantine.

In fact, Sroufe said that one teacher had just four students in class "because everybody else was quarantined."

RELATED: Colonial Heights schools switch to virtual due to COVID cases

Colonial Heights Public Schools Superintendent Dr. William Sroufe
Colonial Heights Public Schools Superintendent Dr. William Sroufe

While some parents applauded the decision for masks to remain because of the surge blamed on the holidays and the omicron variant, a father of two elementary-aged students in Colonial Heights thinks the decision should fall to parents.

"My take is that COVID isn't going anywhere. It's a pandemic,” David Wall said. “I think that it should honestly be up to the parents, you know, and if just like when COVID came out, if parents decided they don't want their kids in the school, then they can do virtual."

Sroufe said the decision to keep masks mandatory was discussed.

"The chairman spoke to all the members, I spoke with all the members,” Sroufe explained. “And there was no vote because they didn't change anything."

Sroufe said he has received phone calls and emails from parents on both sides of the decision.

Colonial Heights educates nearly 2,900 students over three elementary schools, one middle school, one high school and a technical center.

RELATED: For now, listen to principals on school masks, Governor Youngkin says

David Wall, a father of two elementary-aged children in Colonial Heights.
David Wall, a father of two elementary-aged children in Colonial Heights.

All things considered, Wall said he was not upset or “surprised at all" by the district’s decision.

"I'm honestly one of those people that can see both sides of the coin," Wall said.

However, he would still like the decision to be up to parents.

"You know the parents decide they don't want to wear a mask, the children that still do, that's going to protect them,” Wall said.

IN-DEPTH: County-by-county look at COVID-19 cases in Virginia; which areas saw biggest spikes last week

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