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Beginning Nov. 8, Fairfax County Public Schools will require proof of a COVID-19 vaccination for any student participating in Virginia High School League winter and spring sports for the remainder of the 2021-22 school year.

Superintendent Scott S. Brabrand made the announcement Monday morning in a note to parents and guardians.

Proof of a COVID-19 vaccination will also be required for participation in any other activity that requires a physical, Brabrand said. This includes dance team and step team, as well as out-of-season practices and workouts.

"Vaccinating our students is a critical step in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and minimizing any disruption to learning," the note said. "The majority of pauses to instruction for our high school students come as a result of exposure during athletic activities, which the Virginia Department of Education classifies as a high-risk activity."

The pauses impact participation in activities and in-person learning while the Fairfax County Health Department investigates and determines close contacts and next steps, Brabrand said.

School officials will work with the health department to ensure all students who wish to be vaccinated have access to the COVID-19 vaccine before the requirement kicks in on Nov. 8.

A total of 75.4% of all Fairfax County 16-18 year-olds are currently fully vaccinated, and 85.7% have had one dose, Brabrand said. The timeline allows unvaccinated students ample time to fulfill the participation requirement before the winter sports season begins.

Brabrand said the decision is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, and 10 other sports and medicine organizations that urge members to incorporate COVID-19 vaccination into sports physicals for student-athletes.

"While we know this is a difficult decision for some families, it is an essential step that we must take to limit the duration of a pause, getting students back to the classroom and their activities sooner, but still safely," he wrote. 

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