Shelby County Schools requiring masks starting Aug. 30

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

Two weeks into the school year, Shelby County Schools has decided to take a new route with wearing masks in schools.

Originally, the school system strongly encouraged students to wear masks, while they were only required to be worn on school buses, but due to the rise in COVID-19 cases related to the delta variant, SCS has changed course.

Starting Monday, Aug. 30, students will be required to wear masks on campus through Oct. 1 of this year while inside.

“Our goal is to have as traditional a school year as possible, but this health crisis continues to force us to respond and change course in ways that we have never experienced,” said Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dr. Lewis Brooks. “This temporary change will be welcomed for some and frustrating for others. However, we feel strongly it is necessary if we are going to positively impact the rising number of cases in our community. We also feel that this gives us the best chance to stay in school without a complete shutdown.”

Brooks said one key reason for requiring masks is because it will limit the number of students forced to quarantine solely for exposure.

“According to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) Back to School Toolkit, only students who test positive or have symptoms related to the virus will be sent home for isolation or quarantine if all are masked,” Brooks said. “With temporary universal masking, our number of close contact individuals who will have to quarantine will be reduced and more students will be able to remain in school.”

Currently, the number of positive cases of the virus for schools hasn’t been released by the ADPH and is only being updated by school systems until the ADPH makes it available on their COVID dashboard.

However, in the last seven days, 21,030 people across Alabama have tested positive for the virus with 91,005 tests administered in that time frame. That’s a positive rate of 23.1 percent.

In Shelby County alone, there have been 1,002 new cases in the last seven days with 4,624 tests administered for a positive-percentage rate of 21.7. There have also been 13,736 cases in 2021 across the county after 17,263 last year.

The majority of cases and deaths have been in those older than 17. Currently, 0.4 percent of deaths in the state have occurred in those 17 and younger, while 11.6 percent of the age range between 12 and 17 have tested positive, 9 percent between 5 and 11 have tested positive and 7.1 percent between 0 and 4 have tested positive.

That number increases to 37.1 percent for those between the ages of 18 and 24.

Brooks said he wants to make sure the numbers stay as low as possible in the school system and that he wants them to be as safe as possible so students are in the best position to be in school and receive the education they deserve.

“Please talk to your child and send your child to school with a mask. Students will not be asked to wear a mask at recess, lunch or outdoor physical education,” Brooks said. “Our schools will also make sure that students are given mask breaks during the day. Shelby County Schools has implemented and will continue to implement all other mitigation strategies including frequent cleaning, hand washing, and spacing as much as possible.”

On Oct. 1, the school system will re-evaluate the decision based on new information and recommendations from the ADPH.