Kids are back in schools for the fall, and the fact that COVID is too is causing a local district to change its mask policy.
Effective Aug. 23, Lee County Schools will join Auburn and Opelika’s school districts in requiring all individuals to wear masks indoors, LCS announced Friday. The requirement will be in effect until further notice, the press release states.
Two schools — Beulah Elementary School and Wacoochee Elementary School — will also be transitioning to remote learning for the week Aug. 23-27, according to a message on LCS' website. Students will work virtually from home while teachers that are not required to isolate will report to school.
In the release, James E. McCoy, LCS superintendent, said there had been a “significant” number of COVID-19 cases in the first week and a half of classes. There were 105 positive cases in the schools in the first week, Aug. 9-13. During the first two days of the second week, 88 students and three teachers tested positive. McCoy did not have information about how many positive cases during the first week came from students or teachers.
McCoy said he was not aware of any students or employees needing to be hospitalized for COVID-19 this fall.
Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 in LCS is sent home for 10 days, McCoy said. Those who were in close contact with someone who had the virus and are unvaccinated or were not wearing a mask properly are also sent home for 10 days, which basically doubles the amount of people that are kept out of school, McCoy said.
When students are sent home, they are expected to continue their schoolwork on Chromebook computers provided to them by their school, while teachers connect the student with the classroom via Zoom.
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“Hopefully we can keep everything running the best we can,” McCoy said. “We know it’s not the perfect world. We’re not designed to do that. We’re designed to teach in the classroom. We’re learning this as we go.”
Previously, the school district encouraged masks but did not require them as part of its coronavirus mitigation strategy, which also includes frequent hand washing and building sanitation, which will also be in place when the mask requirement goes into effect on Monday.
“As we’ve seen throughout the last couple of weeks, no matter whether you’re wearing a mask or not or been vaccinated or not, you might get it,” McCoy said. “So the mask isn't the do-all end-all, but maybe it’ll help slow things down.”
McCoy said he hopes that this school year will continue in person. The press release says that the district will continue to monitor the spread of the virus with data from East Alabama Medical Center and follow the guidance and recommendations from the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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