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CMNEA recommends CPS mask up to start the school year

CPS Administrative Building
Columbia Public Schools Administration Building


The CMNEA COVID Advisory Committee sent a letter recommending all CPS students, faculty and staff wear masks to start off the school year, regardless of vaccination status.

The teachers union recommends until all elementary-aged students are eligible for the vaccines, have received their doses and surpassed the two-week waiting period to become fully vaccinated, all people in any CPS building should be required to wear masks.

The committee states in the letter that it wants to have a normal school year, but safety measures must be in place as the virus continues to spread across the state.

CMNEA President Noelle Gilzow said the recommendations were made because of the delta variant that continues to be the leading variant in the state.

Health experts say anyone who is unvaccinated is at a greater risk for contracting the delta variant.

"Current information suggests that vaccinated individuals can transmit the Delta variant to unvaccinated individuals, and our youngest scholars are not yet eligible for vaccination. In light of this overwhelming evidence, we request that CPS require masks for all individuals in CPS buildings until all students can be fully vaccinated," the CMNEA committee said in the letter.

The current recommendations from the CDC, updated July 9, for K-12 Schools, advises masks should be worn indoors by all individuals (age 2 and older) who are not fully vaccinated. Appropriate seating should be provided in every classroom that will maximize social distancing and front faced seating.

CPS updated its mask requirement, contact tracing and quarantine guidelines for the rest of summer school on July 12. Quarantine is not required for those fully vaccinated who have no symptoms or if the person who is exposed was wearing a mask indoors and has no symptoms.

Gilzow said the evidence showing that vaccinated individuals, such as parents, teachers, and students ages 12-17, can still transmit the virus to unvaccinated individuals in the district (preK-six), makes it incumbent to protect them by wearing masks.

Gilzow said based on the recommendations from CPS teachers last year, the CMNEA wants to refine some of the day-to-day operational issues in order to maintain a safe classroom and maximize learning for students.

"Furthermore, recent guidance about quarantine is affected by whether or not you're wearing a mask. If you were in close contact and you were wearing a mask, then you don't have to quarantine. If you're in close contact and you were not masked, then you have to quarantine for 10 days," Gilzow said.

Gilzow said in terms of the impact it could have on families, who could be inconvenienced for 10 days, it helps to wear a mask.

Gilzow said the overall policy will help to start school in person, and allow students and faculty to stay in school and keep kids in seat.

"We are ultimately thinking about the safety and learning environments for our students, and also the teaching environment for our educators because our learning environment is their working environment," Gilzow said.

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Leila Mitchell

Leila is a Penn State graduate who started with KMIZ in March 2021. She studied journalism and criminal justice in college.


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