Atlanta Public Schools to require masks, will local districts follow?

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – All Atlanta Public Schools students and staff will be required to wear masks come Aug. 5, the district announced Thursday.

Officials cited the spread of the Delta variant, guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics and age of those eligible to receive the vaccine as key considerations in the mandate.

Meanwhile, Gwinnett County Public Schools — the largest school system in Georgia — is “strongly recommending masks,” according to the district’s website.

WSAV News 3 checked in with local school districts on plans for the upcoming school year.

According to the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System, at this time, masks are expected to be optional for students and staff. A spokesperson said that could be subject to change depending on local transmission rates.

The Bulloch County School District said mask-wearing will not be required in the upcoming school year.

Effingham County School District’s superintendent told WSAV masks will be optional for students, staff and visitors.

Back in May, Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order restricting school districts across the state from mandating masks.

The governor said staff and students could choose to wear masks or be encouraged to do so, but schools couldn’t enforce it.

However, the order is worded to say local school districts can’t “rely on the Public Health State of Emergency as a basis for requiring students or workers to wear a face covering.”

WSAV reached out to Kemp’s team for further clarification.

“The governor’s previous executive orders bars schools from using our state of emergency declaration to mandate masks,” Communications Director Cody Hall replied. “Hypothetically, they could still make masks part of their school dress code. Our office wouldn’t have any authority to limit that.”

The latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on COVID-19 prevention in schools promotes vaccination for those who are eligible, mask-wearing indoors by individuals 2 and older who are not fully vaccinated and maintaining social distance of at least 3 feet.

The vaccine is available to children ages 12 and older. Safety and efficacy testing is underway in those younger than 12.

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