Schools Are Deciding What The New CDC Mask Guidelines Mean For The Classroom

In an effort to reassure anxious families, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently issued a statement recommending COVID-19 vaccinations for children 12 years and older, saying “vaccines are safe and effective in protecting individuals and populations against infectious diseases” and that “new vaccines are evaluated by a long-standing, rigorous, and transparent process.”

As for the CDC’s revision of its masking rules, it is unclear what impact this will have on teachers, staff and students in the near term. Though the CDC has not yet revised its K-12 schools safety guidance, at least one district did move quickly Thursday to announce changes to its own in-school safety policies.

“In accordance with the new [CDC] guidance, Cobb Schools will no longer require fully vaccinated individuals to wear a mask,” wrote Chris Ragsdale, the superintendent of schools in Cobb County, Ga. “I would also like to make clear that any individual wishing to continue wearing a mask while attending school and/or school events should feel free to do so.”

In many places where mask-wearing has become unpopular, families and political leaders want children to be able to learn mask-less — regardless of whether they’ve been vaccinated. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference Tuesday that he believes children should not be masked in classrooms, vaccinated or not.

“These kids do not need to be wearing these masks,” DeSantis said, though the CDC has said masking is a key strategy to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools. On Thursday, Palm Beach County Schools told families masks will be optional when the next school year begins.

In some states, masks in schools are already optional.

“Whether a child wears a mask in school is a decision that should be left only to a student’s parents,” said South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster earlier this week as he issued an executive order allowing parents to opt their children out of school-based mask requirements.

The move was excoriated by the Palmetto State Teachers Association. In a statement, the group said, “many families and staff no longer have a choice for in-person learning if those individuals desire to follow the clear instructions of our public health authorities.”

Several districts in Utah are also now allowing parents to simply sign a form to exempt their children from schools’ face mask requirements. And, on Thursday, Utah’s governor announced a controversial move to end a statewide mask mandate in schools for the last week of the school year.

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