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CCSD Will Make Masks Optional in Schools

Masks will be optional in Clarke County public schools starting Monday, Feb. 28, the district announced on Friday.

“We are pleased to see a continued drop in our school and community positivity rates for COVID-19,” Superintendent Xernona Thomas said in a letter announcing the policy change. “All schools are well below 5% and have been for several weeks. We are hopeful that these trends will continue.”

Athens and the nation were sent reeling by the Omicron variant in late December and January. But the district had just 31 cases of COVID-19 among students and staff over the past week and 86 over the past two weeks, compared to 606 during the previous two weeks. Communitywide, cases have fallen to pre-Omicron levels, averaging 20 per day, down from highs of over 200, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Thomas said that visitors will be allowed back into school buildings for meetings and other activities starting Feb. 28.

Masks will still be required on school buses per CDC guidance and “strongly encouraged” at large events and gatherings, Thomas said. The policy could change again based on COVID-19 case rates.

However, Gov. Brian Kemp and the state legislature could soon take the decision out of school officials’ hands. Kemp has proposed a bill barring school districts from mandating masks.