DeKalb County School District and City Schools of Decatur are lifting mandatory mask requirements for staff and students.
Officials with both districts stated the decision comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its procedures to assist communities with monitoring the spread of COVID-19 on Feb 25. Officials said they used the CDC’s community levels tool to help determine the next course of action. According to the CDC’s website, the COVID-19 community levels tool can be used to help communities decide what prevention steps to take based on the latest data. Levels are classified as low, medium, or high and are determined by evaluating specific indicators. Currently, in DeKalb County, the community level is low.
“At the low level, there is limited impact on the healthcare system and low amounts of severe disease in the community,” said Dr. Greta Massetti, an epidemiologist with the CDC.
City Schools of Decatur (CSD) lifted their mandatory masking policies on March 1 while DeKalb County School District’s (DCSD) mandatory masking policy remains in place until March 2.
Officials from both school systems said mask-wearing will be strongly encouraged, but no longer mandatory, for all staff, students, and visitors.
“The DeKalb County School District is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of students and staff. DCSD views the COVID-19 case data and status reports for the school district and DeKalb County. In collaboration with a Medical Advisory Committee, all information is utilized to make decisions on mask-wearing and other mitigation strategies,” said DCSD Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris. “Based on available information at this time, DCSD will be lifting the mandatory mask requirement for all staff and students indoors and on buses. Mask wearing will be strongly encouraged for all staff, students, and visitors. Individuals who present with symptoms, test positive, or are exposed to someone with COVID-19 should continue to follow all district-wide protocols and consistently and correctly wear masks to protect others as well as themselves.”
Officials with DCSD said the following mitigation measures will remain in place:
- Reporting positive COVID-19 cases and exposures utilizing the portal
- Implementing mitigating strategies in all school and district facilities
- Offering surveillance testing in schools and central offices
Like DCSD, CSD officials said weekly testing, contact tracing, physical distancing when possible, and asking students and staff who feel ill to remain home will continue as needed.
“Throughout my time as the superintendent, I have relied on CDC guidance as the standard to follow, and I will continue to do so at this time for all CSD facilities,” said CSD Superintendent Maggie Fehrman. “While this decision will be celebrated by many of our families, we acknowledge that it is concerning to many others. I want to be clear: families and students will be supported in their masking decisions and bullying or harassment will not be tolerated. Families, please talk about this with your children and stress the importance of respecting the personal choice of others. I will also continue to wear a mask at all times when visiting schools.”