BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Starting Thursday, Jefferson County Schools will require masks for all students and staff.

The change was announced in a letter to parents Wednesday.

“Our primary goal is to keep students safe and healthy,” Superintendent Walter Gonsoulin said in the letter. “I am concerned with the growing number of students who are excluded from school. In one week we saw our exclusion numbers jump from 3% to 10%.”

Gonsoulin said the change will prevent the school system from requiring quarantines of those who have been exposed to individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19.

“With universal maskings, students and employees will be notified of possible exposure,” he said. “However, these individuals will not be excluded from school unless they become symptomatic.”

Masks will be required through at least Oct. 1, at which point the system has said they will reassess the situation.