Students and staff adjust to new school year with masks

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Joshua Star was more than ready to drop his six-year-old son off at his first day back to  Berta Weathersbee Elementary school after a “long” summer, and sending him in with a mask was hardly an issue.

“He’s used to it after the last year … we all kind of are,” Star said, adding that while his family was lax with masks over the summer, they didn’t mind picking them back up, and no one in his family got sick. “We were kind of like, ‘Ah man,’ but we still had a bunch [of masks,] so we just went with it,” Star said.

As schools begin to reopen Monday, keeping students and staff safe are school officials’ top priority this year, said Keneithia Cook, instructional specialist for Berta Weathersbee Elementary.

“We always say that we greet [students] with a smile,” Cook said. “We’re making sure the mask precaution is followed, and our idea is to put children first. [When needed], we’ll give them gentle reminders to put their masks back on and make sure their needs are met.”

Troup County School System Superintendent Brian Shumate was visiting schools in the district early Monday morning, which he plans to continue doing throughout the rest of the week.

There were “no problems” at the first schools he visited Monday morning, Shumate said, and response from parents on mask-wearing has mostly been positive.

“Kids are complying with masks, teachers are teaching their kids on the first day, [it’s been] very orderly and positive,” Shumate said.

“You have to remember there’s 12,200 kids, and who knows how many families around those kids. A lot of people just want their kids at school and are willing to work with us. They did last year. I think we’ll be fine, and we’re going to continue to assess the situation and will revisit that conversation when the time is right.”

Shumate plans to visit all 20 schools in Troup County this week, he said.