HOOVER, Ala. (WIAT) —The Hoover City Schools Board of Education voted Tuesday to extend its mask mandate for at least another two weeks following the September 20 expiration. Moving forward, the board will be looking at certain metrics to decide whether masks are needed.

Starting next week, it will be keeping a close eye on the seven-day average of positive cases. If that number stays below one percent for two consecutive weeks, masks are optional, if not – they stay on.

“We need to keep it up until things are actually under control,” parent Kate Davis said. “I just want to make sure the school board knows how important it is for us to keep up with what we’ve been doing.”

Kate Davis joined other parents outside Tuesday’s meeting, hopeful a mask mandate will stay in effect.

“I have lost some friends yes because they disagree,” senior Kirsten Leonard said. “I’m hoping that masks become optional because that will take away the arguing because people will get what they want.”

Leonard said the debate is making school stressful and she doesn’t want to spend her last year of high school like this.

“There is no way this will please everyone in this city, but I hope it offers stability and safety,” Superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler said.

After hearing from parents and students – Fowler offered some guidelines for how best to move forward—using data to make decisions on a mask requirement.

Starting next week, if the seven-day percent of positive cases reaches 1.0 or below overall transmission in the community is moderate or low, then face coverings will become optional if that stays consistent for two weeks.

The board gave a majority vote in favor of this guidance.

“There’s a lot of tension, a lot of division and I really think that we need to find a solution to that,” Leonard said.

The superintendent said he is hopeful this can find some middle ground while keeping safety first.

“We’ve got a long way to go before the kids are vaccinated and anything can happen between now and then,” Davis said.

If that seven-day average stays below one percent starting next week – then by the first week of October masks could become optional in the district. But so far—the schools have not seen that rate this year.

If masks become optional and that seven-day average goes above one-point-zero for two weeks, then the mandate returns. Decisions will be made bi-weekly based on numbers.

If face coverings become optional, Fowler said the close contact procedure must change slightly in the district. Currently, it only identifies people within three feet of a positive person within 15 minutes. Without masks, he said that circle must be expanded to six feet.

Fowler said the district will continue to notify parents of close contacts and asks parents to monitor their children for symptoms. He said it’s crucial to not send a child to school with a fever or who tests positive for the virus.

Parents can expect to get a message each Wednesday before 5 p.m. to let them know if face covering requirements will stay the same or change. Data on the district’s dashboard will be updated every Wednesday at 10 a.m.