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Hall County Schools make mask adjustment again
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Some Riverbend Elementary students attend classes Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, as Hall County Schools return to in-person learning on a hybrid schedule. - photo by Scott Rogers

Hall County Schools have made another adjustment to the mask rules, including that face coverings for K-5 students will be optional when in the classroom.

The school district’s spokesman, Stan Lewis, said the changes would take effect Tuesday, May 11, and be the final changes for the school year.

While the face coverings are optional for K-5 students in the classroom, they are still required in transitions and common areas. There is no change for indoor mask use for students in grades 6-12.

“With final exams and graduations in the very near future, a more conservative approach is deemed necessary for students 6-12 with regard to indoor mask protocols,” Lewis wrote in a news release. “We want to make every effort possible, within the guidelines set forth by the department of public health, to ensure our students are able to be physically present for exams and graduations.”

Superintendent Will Schofield released a video alongside the release to discuss the changes.

“The main reason for making that differentiation is for the next nine days, we have some tremendously high-stakes activities occurring at the middle and high school,” Schofield said. “With them sharing bus routes and sharing so many facilities, we want to ensure that as many students as possible can participate in their graduation, in their advanced placement tests, in their international baccalaureate final exams and in their end-of-year award ceremonies.”

Schofield said he has received a lot of correspondence on a regular basis citing differentiating medical advice about masking.

“We are aware that there are a lot of studies out here that say masking does or does not make a difference,” Schofield said. “We will continue to rely on our hospital system, our local health department, the (CDC), and the fact that there is also an ocean of evidence that says airborne pathogens are certainly slowed down when we wear face coverings.”

Masks for school employees will be optional outside “unless there is prolonged direct contact,” Lewis said. The masks are still mandatory indoors.

Lewis said the superintendent discussed the issue with the board and made the decision “based on the low number of cases among students in our elementary schools and based on the guidance provided by the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) which indicates spread among elementary school age students is minimal.”

The school system announced May 5 that masks would not be required for school-related outdoor activities.

U.S. regulators on Monday expanded the use of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to children as young as 12, offering a way to protect the nation's adolescents before they head back to school in the fall and paving the way for them to return to more normal activities.

Shots could begin as soon as a federal vaccine advisory committee issues recommendations for using the two-dose vaccine in 12- to 15-year-olds. An announcement is expected Wednesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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