CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WTRF) – After many students missed weeks of school because of COVID-19 contact tracing last year, West Virginia is re-evaluating its guidelines. 

The West Virginia Department of Education released its new guidance on Wednesday, and whether a student is vaccinated will have a direct impact on the quarantine requirements in contact tracing. 

According to the new guidance, if a student is vaccinated, they will not have to quarantine if contact tracing finds they were exposed to another student with COVID-19. 

If the student is unvaccinated, but wearing a mask, they also will not need to quarantine. 

Department of Education officials also explained students do not have to wear a mask unless it’s mandated by the individual counties or school districts. 

In the past we had children; in fact we’ve heard cases of children five, six, seven times being part of contact tracing. Multiply that by two weeks, that means we have children who missed up to 14 weeks of school, when school was open, because of contact tracing.

Clayton Burch, Superintendent of Schools

If you think about athletics last year, most of our issues dealt around quarantining and not necessarily the virus itself with the teams. It was quarantining that happened due to some contact tracing. So, we think with the vaccination you don’t have to quarantine and I think we’ll see more teams being able to play.

Bernie Dolan, Executive Director, WVSSAC

Social distancing and face coverings are still recommended by the state, but it will be up to individual school districts to implement any mask requirements.

During this same press conference, the West Virginia Department of Education also said virtual school will only be available for grades six through 12

Superintendent Burch explained the state has testing data and teacher data that shows virtual learning for elementary students was “not good”. 

The state is also putting emphasis on the social and emotional wellbeing of the students. At the beginning of the press conference, Superintendent Burch said that was on the first page of the state’s guidelines for the coming year.

Superintendent Burch also asked students or staff who do not feel well during the school year to please stay home so as to not spread the virus or any other illness.

Stay with 7News for continued updates as students return to the classroom.