DCPS lifts mask mandate

Hadley Carr

Beginning March 16, DCPS students are no longer required to wear masks indoors. The decision aligns with an update to DC Health Guidelines for educational facilities. 

“​​I recognize that this is a change for our school community and may cause some initial concern,” Chancellor Lewis Ferebee said in an update to the DCPS community. Bargeman reported no pushback from the Jackson-Reed community regarding the relaxed safety measures. 

“I believe that everyone has a choice as to whether they want to wear masks and I respect everyone’s decision,” COVID-19 Facilitator Layla Gage said. 

A week earlier, Ferebee lifted other COVID-19 restrictions given the decline in COVID-19 cases, allowing DCPS students, staff, and visitors to go maskless outdoors. The cap on audience and spectators at sporting events, art performances, and showcases was also lifted.

Jackson-Reed’s current COVID-19 cases are notably lower than they were in January, when 125 students tested positive after winter break. Six Jackson-Reed students and three staff members tested positive upon the return to school from February break.

Jackson-Reed also recently received a COVID-19 contact tracer to alleviate the pressure on the administration to contact the school community regarding positive cases. “We are relieved that we have a contact tracer. Layla Gage will be sending out the letters [to the community] and putting the [cases] into the system,” Interim Principal Gregory Bargeman said. Jackson-Reed was one of the first 34 schools out of the 116 DCPS schools to receive a COVID-19 tracer. All DCPS schools now have COVID-19 tracers. 

Jackson-Reed is also one of 32 schools to have received a permanent substitute. Permanent substitutes included in the bill allowed for the hiring of contact tracers. Throughout the year, Jackson-Reed has experienced staff shortages due to COVID-19, with the largest staff shortage amid the Omicron wave prior to winter break.  

Per DC Health guidelines,students and staff who tested positive for COVID-19 are required to quarantine for seven days, as opposed to ten days. 

According to Director of Strategy and Logistics Brandon Hall, the test-to-return process will also take place following spring break. 

In an email to DCPS families, Chancellor Lewis Ferebee wrote, “We will continue to robustly implement our health and safety measures while making the appropriate adjustments to reflect the reduced number of positive cases we are seeing.” •