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Decatur Schools will require masks for elementary and middle students, reduce quarantines


Decatur Schools will require masks for elementary and middle students, reduce quarantines

The Decatur School Board on July 13 held the board's first in-person meeting since March 2020. Photo by Sara Amis

By Sara Amis, contributor 

Decatur, GA — City Schools of Decatur will be requiring masks for all elementary and middle school students, and for unvaccinated high school students, during the upcoming school year.

School officials made the announcement at the School Board’s July 13 meeting, the first meeting since March 2020 when schools everywhere switched to virtual learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, a modification to the district’s quarantine policy means that elementary and middle school children who have been exposed but have not tested positive or shown symptoms may continue to attend school during their quarantine period. Parents must agree to a COVID-19 test for the student 5 to 7 days after exposure.

People who spoke during public comments were critical of this change. Vivi Siegel acknowledged that quarantine was very hard on families, but pointed out that the delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 is much more transmissible than the original virus. “Any evidence about low transmission levels in schools is now outdated,” said Siegel.

Superintendent Maggie Fehrman stated in her presentation to the board that in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and the district’s COVID-19 advisory board, the district is choosing to minimize disruption to students’ learning.

“I think we should prioritize as much as possible having our kids be in school full time, in person,” said Board member Heather Tell.

Board Chair Tasha White and Board member Jana Johnson-Davis asked that the district closely monitor contact tracing for any indication that the limited quarantine approach was not working.

CSD’s enrollment is 278 students under projected numbers for this upcoming year. Fehrman said that school districts will be held harmless by the state for this year, meaning that funding based on enrollment will not be reduced, but the state will base projections for next year on enrollment this October. Fehrman said that based on conversations with parents she expects that enrollment will rebound next year and if that happens funds will be adjusted in January 2023.

CSD’s charter renewal is coming up in June 2023. Board member Lewis Jones commented that he believes that the process leading up to renewal is a good opportunity to revisit the charter itself. “Are we getting everything we want from our charter?” Jones asked.

In other news, the board voted to add four early release days to the 2021-22 calendar:  September 16 and 17, and February 10 and 11. CSD will also close all CSD schools and offices on June 20, 2022, in observance of Juneteenth on June 19, 2022

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