Some local school systems will continue to require face coverings even after the state’s mask mandate ends April 9, while other districts will soon make a decision on that issue.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey last week urged people to wear masks in public after the statewide mandate expires. The governor has said she won’t extend the mandate past April 9.
Decatur City Schools will make some modifications for outdoor activities, “but in terms of in-class instruction, the guidelines still require social distancing and we can’t always do that, so the mask is still required in classrooms,” Superintendent Michael Douglas said. “We’ve eased up a little on outdoor activities and when 6 feet (distancing) can be achieved."
“Our plan is to continue the same course of action,” Douglas said. “We’ve still got a lot of spring activities that are important to our students like prom and graduation so we just felt like it was important to finish the way we started.”
Masks have been required the whole school year during PE and recess, according to Douglas. As of April 9, “we would allow them to take the masks off for recess and PE where they will be separated.”
“All our procedures will stay the same,” said Morgan County Schools spokeswoman Lisa Screws. “We think they’ve served us well so far, and we plan to continue as is through the end of the school year.”
Screws said those procedures include masking, frequent hand sanitizing, social distancing in the classroom and using plexiglass shields in some cases, “all things we’ve been doing since the start of the school year.”
Lawrence County Schools Superintendent Jon Bret Smith said the school board will address the mask issue at its April 5 meeting.
“We will likely follow the governor’s lead. That is, they will be highly encouraged but not required after April 9,” Smith said. He said the meeting will be at the schools’ central office at 6 p.m.
No decision on masking has been made yet for Limestone County Schools, said spokeswoman Ashley Graves. “We are going to take a look at it when we get back from spring break April 5,” she said.
Douglas said school officials didn’t want to make changes with only a month and a half remaining in the school year.
“Even though our COVID numbers have drastically been reduced, we still get a positive here and there so we think it’s important to try to protect our students and teachers as much as possible,” Douglas said.
Deputy Superintendent Dwight Satterfield said that, as of Friday morning, no employees were testing positive for COVID-19 and only one employee was in quarantine. As of Friday morning, there were three students with positive test results — two at Decatur Middle and one at Frances Nungester Elementary, he said.
Also, students from 12 schools were in quarantine — Decatur Middle, 40; Frances Nungester Elementary, four; Oak Park Middle, four; Austin Middle, three; Austinville Elementary, two; Decatur High, three, Chestnut Grove Elementary, three; Banks Caddell Elementary, 10; Eastwood Elementary, two; Walter Jackson Elementary, one; Oak Park Elementary, four; and Woodmeade Elementary, two.
According to Morgan County Schools’ COVID-19 Tracker on the district’s website, there were no positive cases among students or employees.
In another development, Douglas said the school district has started allowing some outside entities, like Decatur Youth Services, that have used the system's buildings, “to come in our schools. We’ll take those on a case-by-case basis.”