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CCSD Superintendent Elaborates on Mask Policy

CCSD Superintendent Xernona Thomas.

Superintendent Xernona Thomas said that some reporting about the Clarke County School District’s COVID-19 policies has been “inaccurate,” but she also confirmed that the district does not currently plan to require masks this fall, even for unvaccinated students.

“Although it is not required, it is strongly requested, and our students have been very compliant,” Thomas said at the school board’s June 10 meeting. “They are wearing their masks, so we have not had any issues using the language that was adapted based on the most recent guidance from our governor.”

An executive order Gov. Brian Kemp signed last month says that school districts cannot use the public health state of emergency as justification for requiring face coverings. However, it falls short of Kemp’s promise to outright ban mask mandates, and other districts have skirted the order by including masks in their dress codes.

Flagpole reported last week that, in a social media post promoting a video about school being “closer to normal,” CCSD initially said there would be no mask mandate this fall, then edited out the statement when upset parents commented on the post. A spokesman for the district confirmed that masks are no longer required in schools, subject to change based on local COVID-19 numbers. 

However, Thomas said social distancing will still be enforced, and masks will be required on buses. She said she wanted to update the board because “some of what’s been printed and posted does not align with this level of accuracy.”

Clarke County’s caseload stood at just 24 per 100,000 people over the past two weeks as of June 12. The seven-day rolling average of new cases was 2.4 per day. There have been no cases in summer school so far, Thomas said.

“Right now what we are doing is using our summer program as a way to assess what is working, what we need to modify and see how effective we’re being in that area, as well as looking at other mitigation factors as we make decisions to return as safely as possible in August,” she said.

None of the three currently available vaccines have been approved for children younger than 12. While young children are less likely to contract COVID-19 than teens or young adults, and the disease tends to be less serious for young people, it has infected more than 35,000 children under the age of 10 in Georgia, leading to 613 hospitalizations and three deaths.

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