SYLACAUGA — Sylacauga City Schools has released a statement encouraging students and staff to wear masks as they return to school.
According to the statement, the school system strongly recommends that both children and adults who are not vaccinated wear facial coverings when returning to classrooms, in light of the threat of the delta variant of COVID-19.
“Although Governor Ivey has lifted the mask mandate, with the current high contagiousness and transmissibility of the new COVID Delta variant, Sylacauga City Schools at this time strongly recommends that masks be worn by all unvaccinated students and adults,” the release said.
The release further emphasized that face coverings may help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others. It also said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people wear face coverings in public settings when around people outside of their household.
Sylacauga is not the only area school that has been looking at the possible need for masking in the coming school year. Pell City Superintendent Dr. James Martin said during the Pell City School Board’s Tuesday meeting that the system is monitoring the COVID situation because of the recent rise in cases. He said the system is also awaiting guidance from the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Martin said that currently masks are not mandatory but are encouraged for students or teachers who wish to wear them.
“If you don’t feel comfortable, wear a mask,” he said. “Please wear a mask if you don’t feel comfortable.”
Martin has previously stated that mask wearing will not be considered a dress code violation.
St. Clair County Superintendent Mike Howard also stressed during his school board's last meeting that masks are not required but strongly encouraged. He said the goal is to start the year as normal as possible, but stressed there will be a need for some flexibility.
“Athletics and everything is a go, but there is a new variant of the virus and it's real,” Howard said. “I don’t know what we’re going to look like a month from now, I just know what we’re going to look like on day one and day two.”
He said the system will have a staggered start to the school year, with students who have last names starting with the letters A-K starting on the first day of school, while students who have last names beginning with the letters L-Z will start classes the following day.
Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind President Dr. John Mascia said this week that all of the institute's employees and students will be required to wear a mask during the first two weeks of school if they are able to.
“This two-week period will give our students who are coming in from all corners of the state the safest possible transition period and increase our ability to stop possible outbreaks amongst those who are most vulnerable — our youth. Since many of our staff members come and go throughout all campuses and regional centers, it is important that we all wear a mask to lessen the likelihood of cross-contamination.” the president said.
Sylacauga’s release said a free COVID vaccination clinic will also be held July 26-28 from 8 a.m.- 6 p.m. at the Central Office for students age 12 and older.
“When parents come to register their students for the new school year, they can take advantage of this great opportunity,” the release said.
The system also said that students who have been fully vaccinated, if exposed to COVID, will not have to quarantine if they are asymptomatic. St. Clair County has said it will have the same policy and that unvaccinated students will have to follow the same quarantine protocols as last year.
Daily Home Staff Writers Chris Norwood and Josie Howell also contributed to this story