Georgia, like most states, is leaving it to local schools to decide whether to cover their faces. And, Henry County, the 1,000,000 students, like many other districts plagued by months of conflict over masks, have decided not to insist on them.
Instead, they are “highly recommended”.
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Many parents in this suburb south of Atlanta had mixed feelings about the policy on Wednesday. Some disagreed, leaving their children at home. Others have sent their youngsters to class to cover their faces.
Kindergartener’s mother and fifth-grade student Shatvia Dorsey said her children are going to wear their masks to school regardless of the rules.
“They are not vaccinated because they are too young, and I don’t know if anyone else is carrying it,” said Dorsey, who is skeptical about the school system’s ability to personally maintain guidance in growing infections.
As the delta diversity spreads rapidly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics have suggested in recent weeks that everyone in schools wears adequate or highly infected community masks.
Some parents and political leaders have had to fight academics with stiff resistance against masks. Some view the rule of the mask as an intrusion on parental authority to make decisions about their child’s health.
The states of California, Louisiana, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington require masks for all students and teachers, regardless of vaccination status. At the other end of the spectrum, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Utah have banned the need for masks in public schools.
Florida Republican Gov. Ron D. Santis said Thursday that parents should decide whether to wear a mask to school, adding: “What are the harmful effects of having a kindergartener spend seven hours in a mask? Are they talking about emotion, academically, physiologically? Not studying? ”
The outbreaks that hit schools earlier this year have added to the call for more masks.
In Markan, Arkansas, more than 800 students and staff members have been isolated due to exposure since classes began last week in the 4,000-student district.
Marion Superintendent Glenn Fenter called on lawmakers to repeal state laws banning masks, warning that a “full-blown crisis” could ensue. And Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson first expressed regret for signing the ban and called for it to be revoked. But the GOP-controlled legislature put it in place on Friday.
Subsequently, a judge in Arkansas barred the state from enforcing the ban until further notice.
In another fight over the issue Friday, the Florida Board of Education pressured schools to discourage masks. The board said it would issue tuition vouchers so that parents who objected to the need for masks could send their children to private schools. This money will be taken from public school funds.
From the onset of the epidemic to the peak of the infection in January, CDC data show that the rate of infection is lowest in children 15 and under. Now, though, the rate of infection is higher in school-aged children 50 and older than in adults.
Henry County recorded 111 cases of Covid-11 among children aged 5 to 1 in the two weeks ending July 2. Its per capita rate is highest in Georgia and higher than the nationwide figure.
Henry County Superintendent Mary Elizabeth Davis said she believes schools have learned to prevent infections by mentioning how to clean, air filtration and use hand sanitizers. The district is also offering a $ 1,000 bonus for vaccinating its 1,000,000 employees.
“We highly recommend that individuals choose a mask as an additional layer of resistance, but we also know a lot more today than we did a year ago,” Davis said. “And what we know today is that schools are not a catalyst for community expansion.”
Georgia’s more than 180 school districts require masks for at least 28 of them, accounting for more than 38% of state’s public school students.
At Tusahau Primary School, more than 60% of students were wearing masks in four classrooms visited by a reporter on Wednesday, although some pulled them off. In only one room, where the teacher was also without a mask, most of the students were without masks.
What Tusao’s parents wanted was a bit of normalcy – trying to help children learn practically at home, or cycling between school and segregation in person.
“We’ve dealt with the storm, but it’s much better to be back in the classroom,” Bryant Thigpen told his son after dropping out on the first day of fifth grade. He said he thinks the school system should need a mask – “at least until the cases are reduced.”
Daniel Denny sent his two children to Tussauds in masks but said parents should keep their faces covered.
“Everyone has their own,” he said. “You choose how you take care of your family.”
Kimberly Winning, a parent of two high school students, strongly endorsed the policy, saying it would make things much easier for children who have asthma or are worried about wearing a mask.
“I have faith in God and I would not be afraid of a virus that has a 98% survival rate,” he said.
Overall, 90% of Henry County students returned in person, while 10% chose all virtual instruction or a combination of both.
Holly Freeman’s 8-year-old daughter, Kalani, is a student who will stay home and learn practically. Freeman said his family members have health problems and it would be unsafe for his daughter to go to school without a mask order.
“I’m really upset that we didn’t have a safe choice,” Freeman said. “I’m really upset that our community has betrayed us.”
He said his daughter took the news harshly: “She cried all over the house and cried all night and cried this morning, knowing she had to go online again.”
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