Patty Cleveland, C.C. Pinckney Elemetary School 3rd grade teacher, begins teaching Jan. 25 after students returned to in-person learning for the first time since March 2020.
Patty Cleveland, C.C. Pinckney Elemetary School 3rd grade teacher, begins teaching Jan. 25 after students returned to in-person learning for the first time since March 2020. (Photo Credit: by Josephine Carlson) VIEW ORIGINAL

As the nation prepares for the next surge of COVID-19 due to the delta variant, Fort Jackson and its schools help mitigate exposure risks to Soldiers, Family members and staff alike by incorporating Fort Jackson’s updated mask guidance this school year.

A  memorandum from the Deputy Secretary of Defense, effective July 28, 2021 instructs, “all service members, federal employees, onsite contractor employees, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask in an indoor setting in installations and other facilities owned, leased or otherwise controlled by the Department of Defense.”

This will include students, faculty and staff returning to Fort Jackson schools.

“Our new mask policy brings us into alignment with the best science and guidance out there,” said Brian Perry, South Carolina and Fort Stewart Community Superintendent for Department of Defense Education Activity Americas Southeast District. “Like many of you, we are tracking new information online from the medical community, particularly the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.”

According to the CDC the COVID 19 delta variant is one of the most infectious respiratory diseases seen by humankind, complicating the return to school for children under 12 years old who are not eligible for any available vaccine.

Perry explained how all Fort Jackson schools are prepared to receive returning students safely by following DODEA COVID-19 Operational Guideline and Protocols for School, which can be found at www.dodea.edu/covid-operations.cfm, limiting non-essential visitors within the schools and host annual events such as open houses and back to school nights virtually.

Some student athletes may be concerned how the delta variant may affect the upcoming school year’s sports programs. Athletes can take comfort in a recent media release from DODEA that announced the return of Fall sports programs, to include practice and competition with other schools.

“Masks are required indoors, outdoors when social distancing cannot be maintained, and on public conveyances, such as school busses,” said Tracy Fidler, communications director for DODEA. “Masks are optional outdoors when physical distancing can be maintained.”

According to Perry, DODEA will offer virtual school again this year for parents not comfortable with their children returning to in-person classes.

“I am super excited that we are able to start a new school year in-person on the first day,” Perry said. “DoDEA has a virtual school option. It was advertised in the Spring and available to incoming kindergarten Families until Aug. 18.”

Perry also said parents of students with health vulnerabilities who missed the deadline can still request virtual schooling after completing registration at their children’s assigned school.

Though the upcoming school year may look a little different then times before pandemic, much will look the same as updated school guidelines and procedures are implemented while medical communities continue to make advances in the battle against the virus and pre-pandemic life returns.

“We want our students and staff to stay healthy,” Perry said. “I am excited for a new school year.”

The new school year starts Aug. 16.