The Clarke County School District will require all students, staff and visitors to wear a mask indoors this fall regardless of vaccination status, Superintendent Xernona Thomas announced Monday afternoon.
The decision to strengthen the mask policy comes as COVID-19 cases continue to spike in Athens as the more contagious Delta variant of the virus spreads. In addition, only 39% of Athens residents are fully vaccinated, including just one in five of eligible children. Those under 12 are not yet approved to receive a vaccine, but trials are underway.
In addition, the mask mandate will allow CCSD to minimize time lost to quarantines, because under CDC guidelines people who are vaccinated or wear a mask do not have to quarantine if they’re exposed to COVID-19.
“Our team continues to meet regularly to discuss the safety protocols for all individuals in our school system,” Thomas wrote in a letter to parents and staff. “Safety is our top priority, and we are determined to keep all schools open for in-person instruction. Requiring masks for everyone exponentially increases our ability to safely remain open for in-person learning, which is a top priority for the 2021-22 school year.”
Originally, masks were not going to be required this fall, and CCSD dropped the mandate during summer school. Earlier this month, though, administrators changed course and said they’d be required for students in sixth grade and below. Last week, the mandate was extended through eighth grade.
The new policy takes effect immediately. School starts on Aug. 4.
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