DeKalb schools relax indoor mask rules for students, staff

John R. Lewis Elementary School principal LaShawn McMillan, right, greets students as their dropped off for the first day of in-person learning at John R. Lewis Elementary School in Atlanta on March 9, 2021. The DeKalb County School District said it will no longer require students and staff to wear masks. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

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John R. Lewis Elementary School principal LaShawn McMillan, right, greets students as their dropped off for the first day of in-person learning at John R. Lewis Elementary School in Atlanta on March 9, 2021. The DeKalb County School District said it will no longer require students and staff to wear masks. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

The DeKalb County School District will no longer require students and staff to wear masks while indoors.

The systems updated mask policy, posted Thursday, says masks are now “strongly encouraged” for students and staff, but not required whether inside or outside of buildings. But students are still required to wear masks while riding school buses, according to the district’s bulletin.

DeKalb is the fifth district in metro Atlanta to relax its mask policy. Marietta and Cobb County schools in May changed their policies to make masks optional for students and staff, regardless of their vaccination status.

The Fulton County School System earlier this month said it will no longer require masks inside buildings and that students can go without masks during outdoor activities.

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Gwinnett County Public Schools also changed its policy to say masks are no longer required on its campuses.

Atlanta Public Schools spokesman Seth Coleman said Friday the system has not made a final determination on its mask policy for the fall semester.

Clayton County is the only school district in the metro area that said it will require students and staff to wear masks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month tweaked its guidelines to say vaccinated individuals do not need to wear masks in most situations. A few days later, the CDC sent out an update advising schools to maintain COVID-19 mitigation efforts through the end of the school year.

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DeKalb County schools said its change follows local governments lifting community restrictions and decreases in weekly COVID-19 cases around the county. Gov. Brian Kemp said the week of June 21 that he will lift the public health state of emergency on July 1.

The district said people can still choose to wear masks, and it encourages students and staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19.