Vestavia City Schools requiring masks for all students, staff in the classroom


FILE – In this May 18, 2021 file photo, fifth graders wearing face masks are seated at proper social distancing during a music class at the Milton Elementary School in Rye, N.Y. As the nation closes out a school year marred by the pandemic, some states are now starting to release new standardized test scores that offer an early glimpse at just how far students have fallen behind — with some states reporting that the turbulent year has reversed years of progress across every academic subject. New York, Georgia and some other states pushed to cancel testing for a second year so schools could focus on classroom learning. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

October 02 2021 06:00 pm

VESTAVIA HILLS, Ala. (WIAT) — After several weeks of allowing masks to be optional, Vestavia Hills Schools will now start requiring masks be worn by all students and staff while indoors.

In a message posted to the school system’s website Monday, Superintendent Todd Freeman said the policy would go into effect Wednesday. He said the decision came down to the rising number of absences across the board due to COVID-19. Freeman used last week as an example, where 142 students were absent at least one day due to a positive COVID-19 diagnosis and 357 students were absent due to close contact with someone with the virus.

In addition, Freeman said 93 students were absent Friday due to a positive diagnosis. As opposed to a non-pandemic year, where the average daily absences is approximately 4%, total daily absences averaged 9.1% last week, including an average daily absence rate of 4.7% due COVID-19.

“As you can see, the majority of students who are absent are out of school because of close contacts,” Freeman wrote. “Most of those students are not testing positive as a result of close contact at school. This means that many of our students are unnecessarily missing a significant amount of time away from school.”

Exceptions to wearing mask may be granted if a doctor provides a note stating that a medical condition or disability prevents a child from wearing one. 

Freeman said that moving forward, schools will notify parents only when their child has had a possible exposure and that students and staff will be required to stay home only if they are positive or have COVID-19 symptoms. Students and staff currently absent or on leave due to close contact will return after the 10-day period when they were sent home.

“Our goal remains to keep students in school and in a healthy environment,” he said. “We will continue to review our attendance and health information each week to determine when we can end the mask requirement.”

Leading up to the start of the school year, several parents had approached the school board to put in mask requirement in schools. An online petition to get masks in schools now has over 2,100 signatures.

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