HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The start of the 2021-22 school year will look much like the start of the 2020-21 school year in Huntsville City Schools.
Citing rising COVID-19 case numbers, HCS officials announced Monday that masks will be required for everyone 2 years old and older when students return on Wednesday, August 4.
Masks will be required inside any HCS facility, aboard buses, and inside any HCS-operated vehicle.
“Sure, we could say no masks like a lot of other school systems are going to do. But I don’t want to get this wrong. I don’t want to be on the wrong side of history, of making a decision because we had a lot of people that wanted to get back to normal,” says HCS Board Member Carlos Matthews.
Huntsville City School Board Members say the decision to make masks mandatory was data driven.
“This was a necessity… I’ve spoken with hospital administrators in the last week and a half and I’m very glad we had the opportunity to take care of this and address it before school started because we could have been in a very unfortunate situation had we not had that opportunity,” says Ryan Renaud.
Parents attending the special called board of education meeting verbally showed their disappointment in the boards decision to implement masks. A few parents were asked to leave the board room.
School board members say they received numerous emails concerning masking. They say masks are a clearly divided issue, with half of the emails in favor of implementing mandatory masks and half against.
“Some asked why someone who has been vaccinated should have to mask… And I wanted to make sure that folks knew that a recently passed state law Senate Bill 267 prevents schools from requiring proof of vaccinations for the coronavirus,” says Beth Wilder.
Ryan Renaud says requiring masks is one of the best ways to ensure students can stay in the classroom while slowing the spread of COVID-19.
“I don’t want to do data tracking, I don’t want to do quarantine, I want my kid in the classroom,” Renaud recalls comments from parents while addressing the room.
“We all want each and every kid in the classroom, that’s why we’re taking necessary precautions,” says Renaud.
Exceptions to the rule include:
- strenuous physical activities
- situations where a person is having difficulty breathing
- a person is unconscious or incapacitated
- a person is receiving healthcare that requires removal of a mask
- a person is unable to remove a face covering without assistance
- a documented medical, physical, or psychological condition that prevents mask wearing; must come from a licensed physician
Additional measures will also be taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19:
- Students will be on a rotating lunch schedule to allow for socializing and proper social distancing
- Hand sanitizing stations will be available in each classroom and throughout HCS facilities
- Individual disinfectant sprayers will be available in each classroom and electrostatic sprayers will be available in each building
Visitors will be allowed in buildings; masks will be required.
HCS officials stated the HCS Preventative Measures Team will continue to monitor the situation and adjust protocols as necessary.