The Clarke County School District reversed course on masks last week and will now require them for students in sixth grade and below this fall, administrators announced at a school board meeting Thursday night.
Currently only those age 12 and up are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, as trials are still underway for younger children. For 7th through 12th grade, “unvaccinated individuals are expected to wear masks indoors,” said Jillian Whatley, the executive director of student support services. They are optional for fully vaccinated staff. Masks will be required on buses but not outdoors, such as during recess.
In addition, air filtration systems are being installed and students will be expected to observe three feet of social distancing. All schools will be open five days a week with normal bell schedules. Only high-school students will have a virtual option, according to Chief Academic Officer Brannon Gaskins.
“This aligns very closely with what the CCSD recommended,” Superintendent Xernona Thomas said.
Last month, CCSD had said it was not requiring masks during summer school and would not require masks when the fall semester starts. That announcement prompted a backlash from parents who started a petition.
Since then, COVID-19 cases in Clarke County have risen again, going from an average of about two confirmed cases per day to six or seven. Hospitalizations and deaths have also started to rise in Georgia, which public health experts attribute to the more infectious Delta variant spreading among the unvaccinated.
‘We are all watching those numbers daily,” Thomas said. “We all know the Delta variant is real.”
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