Like most states, Georgia is allowing local schools to decide if they require face covers. Henry County has 43,000 students and, like many other districts that have been through months of conflict over the use of masks, decided not to insist.
They are instead "highly recommended".
Parents in this suburb south Atlanta expressed mixed opinions about the policy Wednesday. Others refused to allow their children to attend school. Others sent their children to school with face covers.
Shatavia Dorsey is the mother of a kindergartener and a fifth-grader. She said that her children will wear their masks to school, regardless of rules.
Dorsey said that they are not being vaccinated as they are too young and doesn't know if anyone else is. He is also skeptical about the school's ability to provide instruction in person amid rising infections.
The rapid spread of the delta variant has prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Academy of Pediatrics to advise that all school students wear masks in areas with high or substantial transmission.
Teachers have faced strong resistance from parents and political leaders to their masks. __S.14__
California, Louisiana and New Jersey intend to require all teachers and students to wear masks regardless of their vaccination status. On the opposite end, Arizona, Florida and Oklahoma have banned the use of masks in public schools.
Republican Governor. Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that parents should decide whether their child will wear masks to school. He added: "What are some of the negative effects of having a kindergartener wearing a mask for seven hours?" Are they addressing the psychological, academic and physiological effects? "Why isn't the CDC studying this?"
Schools have been affected by outbreaks at the beginning of the year, which has led to increased demand for masks.
In Marion, Arkansas, over 800 students and staff members have been quarantined because of exposure since classes began last week in the 4,000-student district.
Glen Fenter, Marion Superintendent, urged legislators to repeal the state ban on masks and warned that there could be a "full-blown crises". Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson expressed regret at signing the ban and requested that it be lifted. It was lifted Friday by the GOP-controlled Legislature.
Later that day, an Arkansas judge stopped the state's enforcement of the ban from being enforced until further notice.
The Florida Board of Education used pressure to stop schools from making mandatory masks a part of yet another dispute over Friday's issue. According to the board, it will issue tuition vouchers to parents who do not agree with mask requirements so they can send their children to private schools. This money would come out of the public school funding.
In the week ending July 28, Henry County had 111 COVID-19 cases in children aged 5-17 years. Its per capita rate of COVID-19 is higher than that reported nationwide and one of the highest in Georgia.
Mary Elizabeth Davis, Henry County Superintendent, stated that schools have learned how prevent transmission. She cited intensified cleaning, hand sanitizer and air filtration as examples. To encourage vaccinating, the district will offer $1,000 bonuses to its 6,000 employees.
Davis wore an "I got vaccinated!" sticker, saying that while we highly recommend individuals use a mask to prevent disease, we also know so many more things today than we did one year ago. "And what we now know is that schools do not promote community spread."
Georgia's 180 school districts have at least 28 that require masks. This includes more than 38% state public school students.
More than 60% of Tussahaw Elementary students were covered in masks when a reporter visited them Wednesday. Some had taken their masks down. A majority of students were not wearing masks in one classroom, which was also unmasked by the teacher.
Parents at Tussahaw wanted some normalcy. They didn't want to have to try to teach their children online, or cycle between quarantine and school.
Bryant Thigpen, who dropped off his son at school for the first day in fifth grade, said that "we weathered the storm", but it was a lot more pleasant being back in the classroom. He stated that he believes the school system should have masks, "at least until all the cases are gone down."
Daniel Denny sent his two children to Tussahaw wearing masks, but he said that parents should cover their faces.
He said, "To each his own." "You can take care of your family however you like."
Kimberly Vining, the parent of two middle-school students, strongly supported the policy. She said it would make mask-wearing easier for children suffering from asthma and anxiety.
She said, "I believe in God and I'm going to live in faith for a virus with a 98% survival chance."
Henry County students make up 90% of the total population. 10% opt for all-virtual instruction, or a combination.
Holley Freeman's 8 year old daughter Kalani will be learning online while Holley Freeman is at work. Freeman stated that her family has health issues and that her daughter would not be able to attend school if there was no mask mandate.
Freeman stated, "I feel really upset that there wasn't a safe option." "I am really angry that our community has betrayed me."
According to her, her daughter was distraught when she received the news: "She cried all of the way home, cried all night, and cried this morning because she knew she had to go online again."