Gwinnett schools update second-semester mask policy

Calvin Watts was confirmed as the new superintendent for Gwinnett County Public Schools by the board of education at July 30, 2021 at the J. Alvin Wilbanks Instructional Support Center in Suwanee, Georgia. (Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Caption
Calvin Watts was confirmed as the new superintendent for Gwinnett County Public Schools by the board of education at July 30, 2021 at the J. Alvin Wilbanks Instructional Support Center in Suwanee, Georgia. (Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Rebecca Wright

Credit: Rebecca Wright

Gwinnett County Public Schools will alter its face mask policy beginning Jan. 4 to shift based on community transmission levels.

The school district, Georgia’s largest, has mandated masks in district facilities so far this school year.

In the second semester, masks will be required in all facilities while community transmission is at the “substantial” or “high” level according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. When levels decline to “moderate” for two straight weeks, the school district will make masks optional but “strongly recommended,” according to a Wednesday news release.

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“Much progress has been made in terms of decreasing transmission rates of COVID-19 in our community and vaccinations are now available for individuals ages 5 and older,” Superintendent Calvin Watts said in the news release. “Experience over the last 20 months has taught us how quickly things can change. This plan provides the flexibility for our schools to safely manage that change.”

If Gwinnett County has been at the moderate transmission level for the two weeks leading up to the second semester, students and staff will return in January with masks optional, according to the school district.

Masks will still be required on school buses under a federal order.

The school district on Jan. 3 will communicate the transmission status and mask guidance via its website and the SchoolMessenger app. The district will keep information about the level of community transmission on its website.

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When masks are not required, students identified as close contacts of someone who has tested positive will be required to quarantine unless they have been fully vaccinated or had COVID-19 within the last 90 days. Students will not have real-time virtual lessons during quarantine but can access assignments through the eCLASS platform or materials their teachers provide.

When masks are required, quarantine protocols will mirror those currently in place, with no quarantine required for close contacts if both students wore masks.

Quarantine guidance for employees will not change. Staffers who spend at least 15 minutes within 6 feet of someone who tested positive, with or without a mask, must quarantine unless they are fully vaccinated or had COVID-19 within 90 days.