SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — As the school year approaches and the delta variant spreads, local districts are navigating new information on how to best protect students and staff members.
That includes the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, calling for masks to be worn indoors in areas with significant or high spread — even for those who are fully vaccinated.
The recommendation extends to all teachers, staff, students and school visitors.
WSAV News 3 reached out to every local school district in the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry to answer one question: are masks be required this year?
Most school districts are strongly recommending masks, and few are making them mandatory. Keep reading for the full breakdown.
Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order back in May that prohibits school districts from relying on Georgia’s public health state of emergency to mandate masks but school districts have the flexibility to require them or not.
“Hypothetically, they could still make masks part of their school dress code,” Communications Director Cody Hall recently told WSAV. “Our office wouldn’t have any authority to limit that.”
At this time, four school districts in the Coastal Empire will be requiring masks:
- Camden County Schools
- Liberty County School System
- Savannah-Chatham County Public School System
- Wayne County School System
Other districts are requiring masks only on certain occasions, while others are still making final decisions on mandates.
The Evans County School District — which pushed its first day of school to Aug. 9 due to community infection rates — will require masks unless numbers have been reduced. A final decision is expected in the coming days.
School districts in both Emanuel and Montgomery counties are requiring masks on buses but not in schools.
The Long County School System will require students and staff to wear masks on buses and during transitions. Transitions include changing classes, entering or exiting buildings and going to or from the cafeteria.
The districts listed below will not be requiring masks. Many school officials WSAV spoke to strongly encouraged mask use and others mentioned they are reviewing the latest guidance.
- Appling County Schools
- Bryan County Schools
- Bulloch County Schools
- Candler County School District
- Coffee County Schools
- Effingham County Schools
- Jeff Davis County Schools
- Long County School System
- McIntosh County School System
- Screven County School System
- Tattnall County Schools
- Toombs County Schools
Local districts not yet included in this list have yet to respond to WSAV’s inquiries about masks. We’ll update this page as we hear back.
South Carolina lawmakers have made it illegal for schools to require masks.
“While the use of face coverings and other COVID-19 mitigation strategies may continue to be encouraged in accordance with public health recommendations, South Carolina public schools will not be adopting the CDC’s recommendations for required mask use,” a statement from the South Carolina Department of Education reads.
Under this condition, the following Lowcountry school districts will not be requiring masks:
- Beaufort County School District
- Jasper County School District
- Hampton County School District
WSAV will be keeping in touch with local districts as the first day of school approaches. Get the latest updates at wsav.com/backtoschool.