Cobb, Marietta schools keep optional mask rule in place despite CDC guideline

Cobb County and Marietta City school systems are not planning to reimpose its mask mandate for students and staff, despite federal public health officials recommending those requirements remain in place.

On Saturday, the Centers for Disease Control said schools should keep COVID-19 mitigation efforts in place through the end of the school year.

But Cobb and Marietta schools had already relaxed their rules based on the CDC’s Thursday guidance that said people who are fully vaccinated no longer have to wear a mask or socially distance indoors or outdoors, except when it’s required by federal, state and local laws, as well as by local businesses and workplaces.

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A Cobb schools spokeswoman said Monday that Superintendent Chris Ragsdale’s announcement last week that the district won’t require masks for vaccinated students and staff is “our last and most current update.”

Marietta City Schools spokeswoman Jen Brock said the system will continue to make masks optional for fully vaccinated students and staff. The system on Thursday consulted with Cobb & Douglas Public Health about the CDC’s initial recommendation. Brock said it received no advanced knowledge or alert by the CDC about its latest advice for school districts.

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Brock said Marietta Schools worked quickly to implement the CDC’s guidelines that relax mask wearing policies for vaccinated people, “even though their updated guidance came with a lack of clear direction.”

“The subsequent clarification regarding schools is frustrating and unacceptable given the lack of coherence and the amount of time that occurred between the updates being released,” Brock said.

Cobb and Marietta were the first school systems around metro Atlanta to relax their policies hours after the CDC released new guidelines Thursday. The last day of school in Cobb is May 26 and May 27 in Marietta City Schools.

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Most other metro Atlanta school districts said they were keeping mask policies in place for now, including Atlanta Public Schools, City Schools of Decatur and school systems in Fulton, Clayton, Fayette, Gwinnett and Henry counties.

Fulton County Schools said last week that it would consult with health officials about any potential changes to its indoor mask police. But on Monday, the district said that it has no plans to change its policy for the remainder of the school year. It dropped a mandate that masks be worn outside elementary schools starting Monday, a loosening of rules announced in April.

The DeKalb County School District spokeswoman said Monday that policies were under review.

The Georgia Department of Education is not tracking mask policies and the state’s 180 school districts are free to make their own rules.

This school year, seven metro districts reported nearly 17,000 cases of COVID-19 among teachers and staff so far. The districts are: Atlanta, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fayette, Fulton and Gwinnett.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporters Alia Malik, Vanessa McCray, Leon Stafford and Ty Tagami contributed to this report.