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TCSS says masks optional, but highly recommended for unvaccinated students, staff

At Thursday night’s school board meeting, Superintendent Brian Shumate announced the school system’s back-to-school guidance plan in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the plan, masks will be optional while in schools, a change from last school year when masks were mandatory.

However, masks are still highly recommended for students and staff members who are not vaccinated, and masks will still be required on all buses. Shumate said requiring masks on buses is in accordance with CDC guidelines recommending masks on all public transportation.

Temperatures will no longer be taken unless symptoms are exhibited. Last year, students had their temperatures taken as they entered the building each day.

The protocols in place for positive cases and contact tracing will continue, just as they were last school year.

Shumate noted that the plan is in draft form and could change, depending on how COVID-19 progresses in the community. He noted the low vaccination rates in Troup County, but also discussed the trouble in trying to determine who is vaccinated and who isn’t, as well as the HIPPA issues and other problems that could arise by trying to police that.

Therefore, TCSS is asking staff and students to be on the “honor system.”

“We aren’t going to ask them to show us their [vaccination] card right?” asked board member Joe Franklin.

“No,” Shumate said.

The plan also includes the following:

  • Water filling stations will be installed in all schools. Water fountains will remain off, and students will be encouraged to bring water bottles for refilling.
  • School buses and buildings will still be sanitized daily.
  • All schools and facilities will still receive regularly scheduled antimicrobial treatments. The board approved another antimicrobial treatment during Thursday night’s meeting.

Assistant Superintendent Chip Medders said the guidelines for quarantining and contact tracing haven’t changed.

He said vaccinated persons without symptoms do not have to quarantine if exposed to someone with COVID-19. If a person is vaccinated and starts experiencing symptoms following exposure, they fall back into a required quarantine period.  If a person is not vaccinated and is exposed to someone with COVID-19, then they must quarantine.

Franklin asked how many students might be vaccinated. Shumate noted that no one under 12 can be vaccinated, so he doesn’t believe most students are vaccinated.

“There are some kids that have [been vaccinated] but not a lot,” he said.