Clarke Schools to require masks in most situations

Jul 19, 2021

CCSD Chief Academic Officer Brannon Gaskins (l) and Executive Director of Student Support Services Jillian Whatley (r) address members of the Clarke County Board of Education at last week's meeting.

Clarke County School District administrators say that masks will be required in most situations as the district gears up to return to classes on August 4th. In an update during last week’s Board of Education meeting, the district’s Executive Director of Student Support Services, Jillian Whatley, laid out the conditions under which masks will be required as the new school year gets underway. According to Whatley:

  • All students in early learning through sixth grade are required to wear a mask
  • Masks are optional only for staff who are fully vaccinated
  • Unvaccinated students in seventh through twelfth grade must wear maks indoors
  • Masks are required on CCSD buses

These requirements come in addition to other mitigation measures, including continued opportunities for testing and vaccinations, social distancing, and air purifiers.

School Superintendent Xernona Thomas warned Board members that the district might have to make more changes, depending on the pandemic's trajectory. Nationwide, coronavirus cases are on the rise and public health experts are concerned about the Delta variant.

"We're monitoring those numbers consistently," Thomas said, "and so if there needs to be a change - and that's what I hope people hear, that we may have to make another change and we will do what we need to do."

Board of Education members also voted on a resolution which itself addresses an earlier resolution passed by the state Board of Education addressing critical race theory. The state board’s resolution doesn’t change any current policies, but critics say it lays the groundwork for changes to the state’s public school curricula, and that those potential changes could prevent teachers from discussing the role of racism in the history of the US and Georgia.

The Clarke County Board of Education’s response says that the state resolution “hinders free speech, undermines the professionalism of our teaching staff, and seeks to erase aspects of the history of this nation.” The Board of Education’s resolution passed 5 – 2, with Linda Davis and LaKeisha Gantt voting against it.