Northside schools continue to mandate masks and explore virtual learning options as COVID-19 cases rise in yet another surge.
Numerous private schools in Buckhead and Sandy Springs have mandated masks, including The Lovett School, Atlanta Speech School, Pace Academy, Woodward Academy and Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School.
Atlanta Speech School Executive Director Comer Yates said Atlanta Speech School students have adjusted especially well to wearing masks.
“Masks have not impeded learning, playing or socializing,” Yates said. “Children are very much willing to accept this is what they need to do to keep each other and their teachers and families safe. Our children who are deaf or hard of hearing (those of the Katherine Hamm Center) wear clear face shields to facilitate their listening and speaking.”
All schools have continued to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 guidelines. At HIES, students or staff who test positive for COVID-19 are required to isolate for 10 days and alert the school of the positive test. The Lovett School also requires students to isolate for 10 days and asks that those exposed wait until symptoms have passed and the fever has broke for 24 hours.
“With a community as large as Lovett’s and an issue with controversy of opinion, there is much to consider in making masking decisions,” Lovett Head of School Meredyth Cole said. “One area of agreement is the science which supports that students learn best in-person. With this in mind, we are doing everything in our power to keep children and teachers healthy and in their classrooms.”
With mask mandates in place, many of the private schools are not offering voluntary virtual learning. At Lovett, virtual learning is reserved for students quarantined under the direction of the school’s Health Center or due to other long-term absences as outlined in the Student/Parent Handbook. HIES is also reserving virtual learning only for students sick with COVID-19. Atlanta Speech School is also not offering virtual learning, saying they are doing everything in their power — including mandating staff vaccinations and regular testing — to ensure learning remains in-person.
Fulton County Schools also continues to mandate masks in schools that reach a certain number of cases. Schools located in municipalities where the rate of infection exceeds 100 per 100,000 residents will require all students, personnel, and visitors to wear masks until such time as the level of spread drops. Data will be taken from the FCBOH Epidemiology Reports and reported on our FCS Coronavirus Updates web page.
The school system also uses a matrix to determine if a school should close or not. Introduced last school year, the FCS Closing Matrix is used to determine whether a school should convert temporarily to remote learning.
At the time of publishing, masks are required at all Fulton County schools.
“If you are eligible for a vaccine, and have yet to go get one, please consider doing so now,” FCS Superintendent Mike Looney tweeted. “We can still turn the corner on this surge and maintain a traditional school schedule/day if everyone works together.”
Despite schools being adamant about mandating masks, school board meetings have been flooded with angry parents. Fulton County parents gathered outside the Aug. 12 school board meeting to protest Looney’s decision to mandate masks. Parents were seen screaming and holding signs with slogans like “My child, my choice” or “Lions not sheep.” Following the meeting, parents were even seen surrounding Looney’s car as he was trying to leave.
“Passion filled emotions were on full display last evening,” Looney tweeted the next day. “Unfortunately, a few citizens failed to treat others, including staff, with the civility everyone deserves. Please direct those emotions at me, as staff are simply following my directives. They’re not responsible, I am.”
The Cobb County School Board has dealt with similar protests from parents. According to Marietta Daily Journal reporter Thomas Hartwell, more than 100 people showed up to the district’s central office Aug. 12 to protest the district’s mask policies, one of two protests in two weeks.
Despite potential retaliation, northside schools stand beside their positions to mandate masks.
“Even our smallest children are beginning to develop the empathy to understand that masks are your responsibility in your efforts to keep others safe,” Yates said. “Everyone has learned and grown from the experience – adapting as needed to keep learning at the forefront.”
For the most current information regarding your school’s COVID-19 guidelines, please refer to your school or school system’s websites.