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Bedford County school board votes to repeal certain pandemic mitigation requirements

The Bedford County School Board voted 5-2 on Thursday to repeal the in-school mask mandate for students and to suspend contact tracing for students beginning next month.

District 5 board representative Georgia Hairston and District 1 representative Susan Mele voted against the rollback of universal masking and student contact tracing health guidelines, with facial coverings still recommended by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and cases have risen again with the omicron variant.

School board members who voted in favor of removing in-school mask mandates for students and contact tracing for students were able to do so in light of Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin’s administration taking control in Richmond.

Individual families and students still can choose to wear masks.

Masking still will be required on school buses at all times, in compliance with federal requirements. Other pandemic practices will remain in effect, including enhanced cleaning of school facilities, masking requirements for staff, daily parental health screenings for students and health screenings for staff, regular hand washing, and social distancing of 3 to 6 feet “to the greatest extent practicable.”

In the organizational portion of the first school board meeting of the year, District 6 representative Susan Kirby was unanimously appointed as chair. District 4 representative Marcus Hill was unanimously appointed vice chair.

In an additional policy update, the school board unanimously voted to lengthen the public comment period from 25 to 40 minutes, with four minutes allotted to each speaker. The adjustment was made to simplify the math required in setting speaker time limits and allow for a total of 10 speakers per public comment period.

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