MADISON COUNTY, Ala. – Many school systems in north Alabama are not making masks mandatory when classes start this fall, despite guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics saying everyone over the age of 2 should wear a face mask inside schools – regardless of vaccination status.
The three school systems in Madison County have all released their back-to-school plans and COVID-19 precautions. Madison County, Madison City and Huntsville City Schools all are not making masks mandatory at the start of this school year, even with the growing concern in the health community over the delta variant.
Health officials point to the COVID-19 Delta variant as a growing concern for this fall, as case numbers and hospitalizations start to rise again.
“Schools about to start back and that’s a concern,” says Huntsville Hospital President and Chief Operating Officer Tracy Doughty.
Approximately 55 thousand students attend Madison County, Madison City and Huntsville City Schools combined. None of those districts are requiring masks at school as of now.
“We do have smart folks in our area and our region so the school systems have done a good job working with the state and local officials to come up with their policies and plans and we will leave that up to them,” says Doughty.
There is no statewide mask requirement for schools, instead, local boards of education can make their own decisions.
“Even in may when the governor’s order expired, many of our schools continued to require masking throughout the end of the school year. Local boards clearly have that prerogative if they’d like to do that,” says State Superintendent of Education Dr. Eric Mackey.
Guidance points back to CDC recommendations, which suggest all unvaccinated people continue masking.
“I think its important to consider if you are a leader of a school to consider continuing masking at least indoors for your students that are under the age of 12 we really want to protect them and we continue them to continue to be in school because that’s where they get their best learning,” says UAB Doctor Rachel Lee.
Ultimately masking falls back on the personal responsibility of individuals, which Dr. Rachael Lee of hopes people will take seriously.
“The data has shown that in schools during COVID-19 this past year that with distancing and wearing masks we’ve been able to protect our children for getting COVID and still be in person in school,” says Dr. Lee.
The Alabama State Department of Education tells News 19 they will continue to work with the Alabama Department of Public Health and make decisions based on their guidance.