Fulton County Schools to relax some COVID-19 rules

Beginning in May, Fulton County students will no longer be required to wear masks during outdoor activities such as recess.

The state’s fourth largest district on Thursday announced it will relax several coronavirus safety measures, citing the growing number of vaccinated individuals and the governor’s decision to ease state restrictions.

Parents flooded school officials with emails in recent days about how the district should handle mask mandates in place this school year.

“We have a significant difference of opinion in our school community, and our approach is slow, measured and cautious,” Superintendent Mike Looney told board members Thursday. “I recognize that for some of our families it’s not fast enough. I also recognize for many of our families it’s too fast.”

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Starting May 3, masks will be optional for employees and students in high schools during outdoor activities. Spectators at sporting events will not be required to wear a mask.

The district also will no longer limit the size of crowds who attend events in its outdoor venues. Football stadiums used in the spring by lacrosse, track and soccer teams have been at 30% capacity.

As of May 17, schools can host outdoor end-of-year celebrations without restricting the group size.

That’s also when masks will be recommended but no longer required for students and employees at elementary and middle schools during outside activities. It will be up to parents to tell their children if they want them to remain masked or not.

“I want to make it very clear that our teachers are not going to be in a position to be mask-police on playgrounds or recess or during P.E.,” Looney said.

Board Vice President Kimberly Dove said not having to worry about masks while playing on the monkey bars or jungle gym will be welcome news for some.

“I know some of my parents are definitely going to be excited that their kids can be on the playgrounds without masks on,” she said.

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Masks still will be required for everyone inside a school.

Dove said many families remain concerned about how many teachers and administrators are vaccinated. The district is launching an employee survey next week to try to nail down that number.

Fulton also is changing its quarantine rules.

Fully vaccinated individuals who come into direct contact with someone who has COVID-19 do not need to quarantine, so long as they have no symptoms of the disease.