Atlanta Public Schools to make masks optional starting March 1

Atlanta Public Schools announced a mask optional policy effective next month. AJC FILE PHOTOS.

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Atlanta Public Schools announced a mask optional policy effective next month. AJC FILE PHOTOS.

Atlanta Public Schools will make masks optional starting March 1.

The district’s announcement comes hours after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its mask guidance.

Gwinnett County Public Schools also announced Friday it would lift its mask mandate. DeKalb County School District, another metro Atlanta system that mandates masks, said in a Twitter post that it is reviewing the CDC guidance and will provide an update on its protocols next week.

“APS recognizes that some students and staff may prefer to continue wearing a mask indoors, and we support this decision. APS schools and offices will continue to have masks available for students and staff who may need them,” the district said, in a notice posted on its website late Friday.

Atlanta students have been required to wear masks since in-person learning resumed in January 2021.

Under the APS new protocols, face coverings still will be required on buses.

Also on March 1, students who play sports or participate in extracurricular activities will no longer be required to take COVID-19 tests, a rule that went into place last month.

The district also will relax its mandated twice-weekly testing for employees by moving to a once-a-week testing requirement.

In making the changes, the Atlanta school system cited the CDC’s new guidance as well as other factors, including “a significant downtrend in COVID-19 community transmission” in Dekalb and Fulton counties and a decrease in student and employee cases.

The district said crews are installing air purifiers in classrooms, work that will be done next week.

State legislation backed by Gov. Brian Kemp would give parents the power to decide if their children should wear masks or not. Atlanta Superintendent Lisa Herring has voiced concerns about such efforts.

“Legislation limiting the ability of school districts and boards to implement COVID mitigation efforts is without question a space of concern,” Herring told members of the Atlanta legislative delegation in mid-February.

APS issued a letter Friday to families, students and staff thanking them for their “grace, patience and resilience.”

“You have helped our students, staff, and community stay protected by following the plan of action, even when it was hard or inconvenient. And you have remained flexible when the plan has been adapted in response to emerging situations and new information,” the letter stated.

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