Citing lower COVID-19 numbers, TCSS changes mask mandate policy

Published 5:58 pm Monday, October 11, 2021

Superintendent Brian Shumate announced at Monday night’s Troup County School Board work session that the school system is making wearing masks optional, due to the low number of COVID-19 cases the school system is currently seeing.

Masks will be optional as of Monday, Oct. 18, but Shumate noted that they are highly recommended.  Masks are still required on all school buses, which follows the protocols from the Center for Disease Control.

TCSS has required masks for all students and staff members since the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year and required them all of the 2020-2021 school year, so this will be the first time TCSS students can go to school without a mask on since the pandemic began in the United States in March 2020.

While the mask mandate is gone, the masks could go back on quickly, if the number of cases in a school rise. Shumate said if a school’s positive COVID-19 numbers become greater than 1% of their total student enrollment then masks will be required at that school. For instance, if a school’s enrollment is 500 then the school will have the option of wearing a mask until they have 5 or more positive cases within a school. At that point, masks would be required again.

Once masks go back on, the school will return to optional masks only once the number of cases declines to the half-percent mark. In the 500-enrollment example, cases would need to be 3 or less for masks to be made “optional” again at that school.

The school system currently has only 14 total COVID-19 cases, and no school has more than two cases.  Fifty-eight students are quarantined due to close contact.

Shumate said if multiple schools reach their 1 percent threshold, meaning masks have to go back on, and critical mass is reached, all schools could return to their mask requirement.

Zero staff members have COVID-19 right now, according to data released by the school system. Shumate estimated that 85 or 90 percent of staff members are vaccinated at this point.

Despite the mask mandate changing, quarantine policies will remain the same. TCSS’ protocol is that anyone wearing a mask appropriately and not exhibiting symptoms does not have to quarantine when in close contact with someone who has COVID-19.

Anyone who is fully vaccinated with no symptoms does not have to be quarantined when around a positive COVID-19 case, regardless of whether they are wearing a mask or not.

If a student is required to quarantine, they will be sent home for 10 days.

Temperatures will continue to be checked and social distancing policies will remain in place.

Check back for more on this story.