Some Birmingham area school districts drop mask requirements


JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — Mask requirements were lifted in two Birmingham metro school districts beginning Nov. 1.

A face covering is now optional in Homewood City Schools and Jefferson County Schools but some health leaders cautioned against lifting restrictions too soon.

Jefferson County School Superintendent Walter Gonsoulin said a lot of thought went into the decision.

“We talked to the health officials and saw that the numbers are decreasing both in the community as well as the schools and so we are going back to optional,” said Gonsoulin.

Students in Jefferson County started the year with a mask optional policy. After the surge of the delta variant, the mask requirement was added.

“I respect everyone’s opinion and in this environment, we can’t please everyone all of the time,” said Gonsoulin.

After Jefferson County announced its’ policy would expire, some parents expressed concern over social media. Other families expressed satisfaction over the change.

Parents with children who are not vaccine eligible are concerned about the impact.

“I feel like if you give the kids the option to not wear a mask, they are not going to and COVID numbers are just going to go up,” said Sarah Clark who has a child at Kermit Johnson Elementary in JCS.

For now, Clark said her child will continue to wear a face-covering like they do in other crowded indoor spaces.

“I told her I would rather her wear a mask just in case because I feel like she is not really getting sick with a mask on either, like colds, and flu and stuff too. I feel like it helps a lot,” said Clark.

Some school districts have been operating with mask optional policies for the past month or so. Other systems continue to enforce a mask requirement, including Birmingham City Schools and Tuscaloosa City School.

Dr. Karen Landers with the Alabama Department of Public Health cautioned against moving too fast.

“We don’t need to rush until we see more sustained decline in disease, otherwise we run the risk of bouncing right back to where we were,” Landers said.

According to landers, children between the ages of 5 and 17 make up about 14% of the state’s total positive cases.

“The CDC and the AAP are still recommending universal masking in K-12 and we recommend that as well,” said Landers.

Dr. Gonsoulin said the district will continue to use other mitigation techniques, like enhanced cleaning procedures and social distancing.

Leaders will keep an eye on the number of infections during colder weather.

“We’re going to look at school to school, feeder pattern to feeder pattern, community to community to ensure that we are still being safe,” said Gonsoulin.

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