BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Birmingham City Schools announced Tuesday that all students, faculty and visitors will be required to wear masks in BCS schools and facilities this fall.
The tweet includes a letter from Superintendent Dr. Mark A. Sullivan that says in-person learning and extra-curricular activities will still occur.
After the CDC released new mask guidance, Birmingham City Schools is one of several school systems across the state that have updated their mask policy. It joins Bessemer City, Huntsville and Opelika City Schools.
Sullivan said it’s because they’ve been following the CDC guidance all along that they made a decision quickly, but they also know this guidance will change so they’re prepared to stay flexible to keep the community safe.
Amber Pope is one district parent who was excited to get the news Tuesday that masks will be required when her son Levi heads back to the classroom next week. He’s a student at Epic.
“The more you reinforce the expectation, and make it a habit, it becomes normal to them,” Pope said. “It doesn’t bother them. As long as you don’t set them up to be against it, they’ll follow along.”
Pope said her kids have been receptive to the idea since last year, something the superintendent hopes to keep up.
“Face to face instruction is the best way that students learn,” Sullivan said. “We just want to make sure when they come back, they’re safe and protected and that our students are able to learn in a safe, positive environment.”
The superintendent said he doesn’t want a repeat of last year after the district lost five employees including two office workers, two teachers and a bus driver. Additionally, the district lost a 15-year-old student to COVID.
“Now that we are seeing what’s happening with the Delta variant, I think that our students will comply with that,” he said. “I know that our parents will and our teachers will as well.”
Pope said this is especially important as the Delta variant stays prominent in our region.
“We all wish it was over, we all wish it could be back to normal again, but we’ve already seen you can’t ignore it and hope it goes away,” she said.
Sullivan said he understands not everyone is supportive but keeping this up can put COVID behind us.
“Being on a ventilator or possibly losing your life, that’s something that’s a lot more uncomfortable than wearing a mask,” he said. “If we can do this for a little while and ensure that as many people as possible get vaccinated as possible, we can get COVID behind us.”
Until more guidance comes down, a mask will be necessary to enter school buildings.
“Keeping schools open is a huge priority of mine, personally but also for the community, and the only way to do that is to mask,” Pope said.
Dr. Sullivan said the district will keep working to educate on the importance of getting vaccinated and will work to make vaccines available at school, even when it may become available for children under 12.