Retraction and correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly said that the Board of Education, rather than the superintendent, would make the decision about mask-wearing in schools.
Fulton County Schools Superintendent Mike Looney is expected to discuss with the Board of Education whether he will order students to wear face masks while on school campuses as the threat of COVID-19 continues.
The board meets in a work session on July 14 after they hold the first of three millage rate hearings at 11 a.m. that is expected to end between noon and 12:30 p.m.
The board can choose to affirm Looney’s decision, but it is his to make and no board vote is scheduled, according to FCS spokesperson Brian Noyes.
Many parents have been posting on the Fulton County School System Facebook page that masks should be required and a Change.org petition demanding it had nearly 3,800 signatures by 1 p.m. on July 10. A second Change.org petition had 1,300 signatures demanding masks and many other safety measures.
Teachers and other school employees are required to wear masks under the FCS reopening plan. And students who ride in FCS buses must wear masks during their trips to and from schools.
Students will return to classes either virtually or in person following a plan Superintendent Mike Looney presented to the Board of Education last month. The plan said FCS employees at schools must wear face masks, but did not require students to do so. It said students would be strongly encouraged to wear masks.
How many students enroll in remote learning may hinge on the school board’s decision. Gwinnett County Schools voted on July 7 to require its students to wear masks or face coverings when schools reopen for students on Aug. 12. Atlanta Public Schools will require students to wear masks, according to its website.
On July 14, the Fulton school board is scheduled to begin a millage rate session at 11 a.m. and main public meeting at noon. The meeting will be held at the North Learning Center, 450 Northridge Parkway, Sandy Springs. It will be available remotely online at fultonschools.org/fcstv and will be broadcast on FCS-TV on Comcast Channel 24, AT&T Channel 99 and Google Fiber TV Channel 145.
People who want to make comments during the meeting must attend in person. Comments also can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Noyes said FCS staff is monitoring the comments made on social media and is aware of the petitions.
At FCS, enrollment period for FCS ends July 17. FCS has announced various pandemic precautions.
Hand sanitizing stations will be installed in each school, according to an FCS COVID-19 prevention strategies document. High contact surfaces will be cleaned and disinfected regularly, as will buses. Social distancing – or modified social distancing – will be accomplished by removing excess furniture from classrooms and spacing tables and desks farther apart. Classes may be dismissed at different times to keep the numbers of students in hallways down.
Students will either eat their “grab-and-go” meals in their classrooms or eat in smaller numbers spaced out in the school cafeteria. Water fountain use will be restricted, with water bottle use encouraged.
Students dropped off at schools will not get assistance from teachers and staff monitoring the arrivals and departures, as they must maintain social distancing. And parents must stay in their vehicles.