Most mask mandates ended last school year. Now they are slowly returning

Jefferson County Public Schools in Kentucky and San Diego are two of the biggest districts to require masks again.

Much of the general public has ditched mask but some students are facing mask mandates as the new school year begins. Many more districts, however, are announcing classes will begin without any mask requirements even as the highly contagious BA.5 omicron variant spreads across the country.

Vaccinated and unvaccinated students and staff in Kentucky’s largest district, Jefferson County Public Schools, will start the year under a mask mandate, the district announced this week. School there resumes five days a week on Aug. 11. The school board approved the requirement after Jefferson County moved into the “red”—the highest stage of COVID transmission.

The district is also seeking permission from the Kentucky Department of Education to offer virtual learning to K-5 students. The district’s request for 6th- to 12th-grade remote instruction has already been approved. Virtual students will receive live instruction and self-guided assignments and enroll in a one-year program at the district’s Pathfinder School of Innovation.

The district received mostly criticism on social media.

San Diego USD in California reinstated a mask mandate on July 18, after San Diego County also reached the highest level of COVID transmission. The decision motivated anti-mask parents across the region to run for seats on their local school boards, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Some candidates belong to a group called Let Them Breathe.

The Sweetwater Union High School District just south of San Diego is requiring unvaccinated staff and adult visitors to wear masks when they are around others inside school buildings. Administrators are also asking all students and staff in classrooms where there are immunocompromised individuals to wear masks.

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In Georgia, staff—but not students or visitors—will be required to wear masks at Gwinnett County Schools in the Atlanta suburbs, the district said on Facebook. “We’ll look at the data every week, and if it goes back into moderate or low transmission, we’ll be back to strongly recommending (masks),” instead of requiring them, Deputy Superintendent Nakia Towns said at a school board meeting, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Staff and visitors now have to wear masks at Clayton County Schools, which is also in the Atlanta suburbs. “As positive COVID-19 cases continue to rise throughout the state and nation, we must take necessary steps to ensure employees and students are afforded a safe learning and work environment,” Superintendentsaid Morcease J. Beasley said. “This is a necessary step to protect all that enter our schools and facilities.”

Mask mandate-free first day

Many districts, of course, dropped mask mandates last school year. This summer, a few holdouts are following suit. Prince George’s County Public Schools, which had kept one of Maryland’s longest mandates in place, announced earlier this month that masks were no longer required on its campuses as of July 1. Leaders at Flint Community Schools in Michigan recently decided not to require masks when classes begin on Aug. 3.

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Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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