Report: Atlanta Public Schools considering ending mask requirements for studentsFILE PHOTO USED FOR ILLUSTRATION PURPOSES: Maria Bachman, an 8th grade science teacher for City Schools of Decatur performs a hands-on experiment using a candle to show the difference in airflow through several types of cloth used in masks. Photo by Dean Hesse.
Atlanta, GA — Masks may soon no longer be a requirement for students and staff in Atlanta Public Schools, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
The AJC reports that APS is considering making masks optional starting in February, provided there’s a reduced level of community transmission of COVID-19. Mask wearing is currently required for students and staff in Atlanta, DeKalb County and city of Decatur public schools.
According to the presentation from the Dec. 6 Atlanta School Board meeting, band, theater and chorus students already have a choice of wearing masks when they are performing. Masks also are optional for athletes who are participating in “active play.”
Starting Feb. 1, APS will begin measuring community transmission levels in Fulton and DeKalb County to determine whether masks should be optional.
According to the presentation:
– Masks will be required in all APS facilities if either Fulton or Dekalb County are showing periods of “Substantial” or “High” community transmission. If Fulton and Dekalb County have different transmission levels, then the higher of the two will be utilized to make a masking decision.
– When Fulton and Dekalb County community transmission has been maintained at the “Moderate” level for two consecutive weeks, APS will transition to optional mask wearing in all its facilities.
– Masks will still be mandated on buses in compliance with federal mandates.
Here’s how APS defines the various levels of transmission:
“Starting from January 2022, APS will observe the levels of community transmission for both Fulton and Dekalb County,” the presentation from the Dec. 6 Atlanta School Board meeting says. “APS will utilize transmission levels obtained from the weeks of Jan 16th and Jan 24th to make decisions on masking for the February 1, 2022 date. Transmission levels are updated by the Department of Public Health every Monday and take into account data from the 7 previous days. A decision will be communicated by the end of Jan 28, 2022 via all communication channels. If both Fulton and Dekalb County have been in the “Moderate” range for the weeks of Jan 16th and Jan 24th, masks will become optional starting February 1. If either Fulton OR Dekalb County were in the “Substantial” or “High” community transmission range for the weeks of Jan 16th or Jan 24th, masks will still be required on February 1. APS will continue to monitor COVID-19 community transmission levels on a weekly basis and will adjust masking protocols as necessary.”
At-Large District 8 School Board member Cynthia Briscoe Brown told Decaturish the Feb. 1 date will allow officials to account for any post-holiday COVID-19 surge. She notes that COVID protocol decisions are administrative decisions and aren’t dictated by the School Board.
“The superintendent and her team, including our brand new epidemiologist, considered a variety of factors there and as always balanced public health and safety with the academic social and emotional needs of our students and our staff,” Brown said.
To see the full presentation from the Dec. 6 meeting, click here.
DeKalb County Public Schools and City Schools of Decatur did not immediately respond to a question about whether they also will consider making masks optional in the near future.
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