The DeKalb County School District will be requiring masks in school buildings, even for those who are vaccinated. 

According to the district’s website, all elementary school students will be required to wear masks due to the lack of vaccine access for this age group. All staff and students at middle and high schools will also be required to wear masks until further notice. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has previously stated that fully vaccinated individuals do not have to wear masks indoors or socially distance. The school district cites rising cases of the Delta Variant – a lineage of the virus that causes COVID-19 that is more transmissible than other variants, according to the World Health Organization – as one reason for requiring masks. 

“Although masks for fully vaccinated staff and students (12 and over) are optional per CDC guidance, out of an abundance of caution, masks will be required in all buildings,” reads a statement on the school district’s website. “The district will review effective methods to identify students and staff who are vaccinated and will re-evaluate optional mask wearing.”

A spokesperson for the DeKalb County School District said that virtual learning will be an option for students this year. That enrollment process is still ongoing so there are no definitive numbers of how many students will choose that option. However, at a July 12 DeKalb County School District meeting, it was stated that 2% of the student population has elected virtual so far. 

The spokesperson did not respond in time for publication to questions about what methods the school district might use to identify students and staff who have been vaccinated

The protocol also states that masks will be required on school buses and during official After School Extended Day Program indoor activities. Masks will be optional for athletic activities, but required in locker rooms and weight rooms. 

Before the mask policy was finalized, board members at the July 12 DeKalb County School District meeting disagreed over whether requiring masks was the right move. District 2 Board Member Marshall Orson said he thought requiring masks for fully vaccinated students and staff went against the advice of the CDC. 

“It seems to cut across both the advice we’re getting and also the incentivization that the health authorities are trying to create to push people towards getting vaccinated,” Orson said. 

In response to the concern of not knowing who is vaccinated and who is not, Orson suggested requiring attestations from parents verifying their children have been vaccinated. 

“I understand our push for safety,” he said. “I agree with all that, but we’re not medical professionals and we shouldn’t be substituting the advice that’s been really vetted and that’s also been consistent.”

District 7 Board Member Dr. Joyce Morley said she supported the decision to require masks, and didn’t trust that an vaccination “honor system” would work. 

“You cannot ask people whether they’ve been vaccinated,” Morley said. “Think about the over 600,000 people in this country alone who have died of the COVID-19 … pandemic. And we’re going to talk about an honor system?”

The school district’s mask policy can be read in its entirety on the school district’s website. 

Sammie Purcell

Sammie Purcell is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers.