SCS students, staff must wear masks when returning to school this fall

Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 9:49 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 21, 2021 at 5:45 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - COVID-19 protocols have been put into place for the start of the school year in the largest school district in Tennessee.

Shelby County Schools (SCS) unveiled its back-to-school plan Tuesday night which included universal mask-wearing while on SCS campuses.

“All students grades pre-k through 12, if you come to our buildings, anyone entering into the buildings must wear a mask,” said Dr. Joris Ray Tuesday night during an SCS school board work session.

Text messages and robocalls went out to parents Tuesday, announcing SCS will require everyone to wear a mask inside school buildings despite their vaccination status.

“As you’ve seen there’s been an increase in students and children who have contracted this virus all across the nation. So, in order to do what is safe for children, we understand a lot of adults have received their vaccination, but many children have not,” said SCS Chief of Communications Jerica Phillips.

SCS is siding with the guidance of the American Academy of Pediatrics that released a strong recommendation Monday for all schools to require masking for anyone over the age of two.

That’s a contrast from an earlier recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that said masks are not needed for those who are fully vaccinated.

“We’re not going to card people at the door and ask them whether or not they’re vaccinated or unvaccinated,” said Phillips.

Monday WMC reported Frayser Community Schools planned to mandate masks for everyone. However, some school districts are siding with the CDC recommendation.

See some Mid-South School Districts and their plans for masks below:

  • DeSoto County Schools: Masks optional
  • Collierville Schools: Plans still being drafted
  • Germantown Municipal Schools: Plans still being drafted
  • Millington Schools: Masks optional
  • Arlington Community Schools: Masks optional
  • Lakeland School System: Masks optional
  • Arkansas Schools: Law prohibits mandating masks

Currently, there’s been an increase in coronavirus cases in Tennessee. Over the last 24 hours, there have been 498 new cases, including 120 in Shelby County, and only 12 percent of ICU beds are empty.

Health officials say the highly contagious Delta variant is partially to blame for the uptick with expectations for the mutant strain to continue to drive up numbers in the coming weeks.

Health officials say this is the fourth wave of the pandemic and could still be in place for students when they return to in-person learning on August 9.

Ray says many of the same restrictions put in place for the spring will continue in the fall, such as keeping students six feet apart in the classroom. However, playgrounds will reopen with social distancing reinforced.

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