Ahead of Gov. Kay Ivey’s statewide mask mandate expiring Friday, April 9, the decision on whether to continue requiring masks for school systems was left up to individual school districts.

Superintendent Jason Barnett on Monday released a statement saying masks will no longer be required for students or staff of DeKalb County Schools effective Monday, April 12, 2021.

He said the option to wear a mask will become a personal decision as to whether the individual feels compelled to utilize a mask for personal safety.

“We will of course support anyone who chooses to utilize a mask for personal protection,” Barnett said. “This decision was made over the course of the past few months as we have seen a steady decline and an almost non-existent positive rate in our schools for the past several weeks.”

Barnett said they will continue to monitor data and respond accordingly, making adjustments as needed.

“These adjustments may include the requirement of a mask in certain situations if it is determined to be warranted or an increase in cases is observed,” he said. “But as of April 12, 2021, the requirement for a mask in all DeKalb County Schools will expire.”

Fort Payne City Schools Superintendent of Education Jim Cunningham issued a statement Thursday explaining the city schools will continue requiring face coverings to be worn by everyone on campus despite Ivey’s statewide mask mandate ending.

“We still feel the necessity to observe the guidance of [The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and local doctors. The updated recommendations coming from the CDC are still specific to students in classrooms with universal mask-wearing. The CDC recommends that all students remain at least three feet apart in classrooms where mask use is universal, regardless of whether community transmission is low, moderate, substantial or high,” said Cunningham.

He said due to the CDC guidance, advice of local health care professionals, and the success they have experienced since August 2020, they will continue to require universal masking on all of our campuses, facilities and buses as a precautionary measure.

“We only have seven weeks left in this school year and continuing with our practice of safety first is in the best interest of our students and employees. Thank you for your understanding of our desire to keep our students and staff as safe as possible,” Cunningham’s statement read.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard, more than 10,000 Alabamians have died from the coronavirus and more than 500,000 people have contracted the disease. Statewide, more than 47,000 people have been hospitalized and at least 320,500 cases are presumed recoveries. Locally, 181 people died from COVID-19 and over 8,700 cases have been seen, including 34 new cases in the last 14 days.

– Editor’s note: Publisher Steven Stiefel contributed to this article.

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