Atlanta Public Schools said Thursday it will mandate masks for all students and employees in district buildings for the start of the upcoming school year, which begins Aug. 5.
Superintendent Lisa Herring and board Chairman Jason Esteves announced the mandate on Twitter. The district also published a statement on its website.
“Healthy and safe learning environments for our students is a top priority,” Herring tweeted.
The district’s decision comes as coronavirus cases are on the rise in Georgia, mostly among the unvaccinated population. Health officials also site the highly contagious delta variant as a cause.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently advised that vaccinated students and teachers don’t need to wear masks in schools. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommended masks for everyone over the age of 2, regardless of vaccination status.
Across the metro area, masks are now being required by APS, Clayton County and the DeKalb County school districts. In other districts - Cobb County, Marietta City schools and Gwinnett County - masks are optional.
Fulton County Schools lifted its mask mandate on June 1 in advance of summer school. But the district will require masks on buses. As of 2 p.m. Thursday, the district had not announced any changes to those rules.
APS said 18% of students age 12 and older are vaccinated, according to Fulton County health data. Vaccines are not yet authorized for children under age 12. A district survey found about 58% of employees are vaccinated or plan to be.
“Consistent and correct use of mask-wearing has been shown to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” APS said in its announcement.
The school district, which enrolls about 51,000 students, also required masks during the 2020-2021 school year.
APS is requiring everyone inside schools and district buildings to wear masks. Masks are also required on buses.
But the face coverings will be optional during outdoor activities, such as recess and physical education classes.
Beginning Aug. 9, vaccines will be offered at Atlanta middle and high schools to eligible students as well as employees through the Fulton County Board of Health.
School districts’ mask policy
Mask policies in buildings vary across metro Atlanta districts for the 2021-2022 school year.