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Fulton Schools changes protocols on masks for students

Face coverings required as COVID cases spike

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ATLANTA — Fulton County School System officials changed course on the district’s mask mandate from “recommended” to “mandatory” just days before the start of school Aug. 9.

The decision created some confusion and concern among parents.

The mask-up order is in effect for schools where “high community spread” is occurring based on Fulton County Public Health statistics. Currently, high spread is happening in 13 of the 14 cities within the Fulton County School System.

Only Johns Creek remains below the threshold of 100 cases per 100,000 population based on data collected in the week ending Aug. 4.

Superintendent Mike Looney said the decision to mandate masks will help schools manage the COVID pandemic most effectively.

“Our ability to continue moving forward depends on all of us wearing masks, staying home when sick, and following all the other mitigation strategies recommended to reduce the spread of the virus,” Looney said.

There was a sharp increase in the number of cases in North Fulton from the previous week. In the Fulton County Board of Health report for the week ending July 29, none of the cities in North Fulton met the threshold of high transmission.

In the space of seven days, the numbers jumped across the district. Even Mountain Park which had no reported cases at the end of July reported a ratio of 150 cases per 100,000 population by early August.

As school kicks off this week, all students, except those in Johns Creek, will be required to mask up. For students in the 15 schools within Johns Creek, masks will remain “strongly recommended” but not mandatory.

The decision caused some concern in the Johns Creek community, because the city is just two cases below the number needed to mask up.

Fulton Schools to continue COVID protocols

On the Fulton County School’s social media sites, parents said the city will likely exceed 100 per 100,000 in the next few days. They questioned why the mandate order would not be put into place at the start of school.

Others said many students in Johns Creek schools live outside the city in communities with high transmission, so borders are meaningless.

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The move to mask also drew passionate reactions on both sides of the issue. One parent said the decision to make masks mandatory “made zero sense,” noting kids have already spent a “maskless” summer interacting with each other.

Others said requiring masks is a small price to pay to keep the community safe.

Revised quarantine procedures

Following updated guidelines from the Georgia Department of Public Health, the Fulton County School System has changed its quarantine procedures from those in use last year.

Previously, students who were exposed to a COVID positive individual were required to quarantine for 10 days.

This year, all students, regardless of vaccination status, can remain in school after a direct contact if they are symptom-free and wear a mask while on school district property for 10 days after exposure.

Also, all students who report a pending test result may continue reporting to school if they are, and remain, symptom-free, and wear a mask while on school district property until the test results are received and reported.

Candy Waylock is an award winning education reporter who has covered all things education for Appen Media over the past 20 years. She is an Alpharetta resident.

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