Atlanta Public Schools is mandating masks for the 2021-2022 school year.

The school system announced July 22 that masks are required for all students and staff in all schools and buildings during the school and workday, as well as all indoor after school activities, clubs, and programs. Masks will also be required while on the school bus.

Clear masks will be provided and used for serving students in special populations i.e. Deaf/ Hard of Hearing, Pre-K and ESOL as needed.

Masks will be optional for outdoor activities such as recess, physical education classes and outdoor athletics including outdoor marching band practices. Students will also not be required to wears masks while eating in the cafeteria.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all students and school staff wear masks regardless of whether they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all unvaccinated people wear a mask.

“Given our low vaccination rates and increasing community spread, the CDC acknowledges that universal masking would be appropriate,” APS wrote in a statement. “In light of this information and in our efforts to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, APS will continue to offer COVID-19 surveillance testing weekly.”

According to the Fulton County Board of Health, 18% of eligible APS students are fully vaccinated. Around 58% of district employees have indicated that they are fully vaccinated or plan to be, per a survey conducted by APS.

Children under 12 years do not have the option of being vaccinated and remain vulnerable to contracting and spreading the disease.

According to APS, the Delta Variant is now the dominant variant of COVID-19 in the United States and may spread 225% faster than the original virus. Consistent and correct use of mask-wearing has been shown to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

In addition, APS will offer COVID-19 vaccines to students and staff during two upcoming opportunities. In partnership with Walgreens, APS will offer vaccines to families and staff at the Back to School Bash on July 31.

Starting Aug. 9, APS will offer on-site COVID-19 vaccinations to eligible students in middle schools and high schools and staff through the school system’s partnership with Fulton County Board of Health.

Parents will be notified and provided consent forms. More information on APS’ vaccination plans will be provided in a future communication.

APS said it remains committed to ensuring healthy and safe learning environments for the 2021-2022 school year.

Masks are also being required in Clayton County and DeKalb County school districts. Cobb County, Marietta City schools and Gwinnett County have made masks optional.

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