Metro Atlanta school districts reconsider mask policies

Masks will be optional for Cobb County and Marietta City Schools students, teachers and staff when they return to class in August, according to the school district.

Both districts also said that effective Monday, masks will be optional. Anyone who wishes to wear face coverings “should feel free to do so,” Cobb Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said in a news release on Tuesday.

Last week, Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order restricting Georgia’s public school districts from mandating that students and employees wear masks, though it falls short of an outright ban.

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Ragsdale credits the drop in COVID-19 community transmission in Cobb County for the district’s ability to relax its mask policy.

“Despite incredible challenges, we have successfully navigated a school year that has been interrupted in every imaginable way by COVID-19,” said Ragsdale, who previously said he expects masks would be optional for the upcoming school year.

Both systems relaxed their policies in May to make masks optional for vaccinated students and adults.

Marietta City Schools Superintendent Grant Rivera said Tuesday that desk partitions are being removed for when classes resume in August. The district plans to also resume normal lunch operations, restart student field trips and hold in-person attendance for events such as open house.

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Decisions about masks policies vary across metro Atlanta school districts. Clayton County Public Schools said Tuesday that it will keep its current policy in place requiring staff and students to wear masks inside buildings.

In a statement issued last week, Atlanta Public Schools also said it continues to implement its mask requirements and other COVID-19 safety measures. The district said it would continue to assess its strategy as health guidance evolves.

Gwinnett County Public Schools said that as of Tuesday “masks are strongly recommended but not required” on all campuses and facilities.

The DeKalb County School District said it will follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations that systems continue their current COVID-19 mitigation strategies. The district requires face coverings for students and staff.

The Fulton County School System lifted its mandate Tuesday that required masks to be worn indoors.

Staff reporters Alia Malik and Vanessa McCray contributed to this story.