Atlanta Public Schools will no longer require students, staff, teachers or visitors to wear a mask in schools as of March 1.
The district’s protocol change follows alterations in CDC recommendations stating it is no longer necessary to wear a mask in areas of “low or medium risk.” According to the APS Health Services Department, there has been a “significant downtrend in Covid-19 community transmission for both Dekalb and Fulton counties.”
For the week of Feb. 19, there were 36 positive cases throughout the district in students and staff, two of which were from Midtown. At Howard Middle School, 548 students were tested and there were no positive cases.
Many Midtown students and teachers were not surprised by the implementation of a mask-optional policy.
“The whole time we have been following the CDC, so if we are going to continue to follow the CDC, I think that it is logical that APS adopts a mask-optional policy,” Advanced Placement Literature teacher Susan Barber said.
Barber will stop wearing her mask, but she will wear her mask if requested by others.
“I will unmask unless I am around people who want me to mask,” Barber said. “I don’t have a problem if someone asks me to put mine on, if they have a health condition, I am totally fine with that.”
Sophomore Evan Collins predicts that most students will continue to wear a mask in the next couple of weeks, and gradually become more relaxed about it.
“Some people will wear them and some people won’t,” Collins said. “I’m probably eventually going to stop wearing it. Like I’m going to have it on in first period and throughout the day, I won’t have it on. I know some of my teachers are probably going to get people to wear their masks still, but most teachers probably won’t care anymore. And now they can’t really tell students to pull their masks up anymore. So now it’s like, ‘What can they do?’”
AP Environmental Science teacher Pierre Davis said he will also likely stop wearing a mask.
“I knew this day was coming, I was kind of prepared for it, it wasn’t surprising,” Davis said. “Masks and glasses don’t really work together, so any opportunity I have to take my mask off, I will take it.”
Some feel as though the move was long-overdue.
“I am very excited that the mandate is lifting because I feel like it’s time,” senior Maya Walker said. “We’ve been wearing masks for almost two and a half years, so it’s time to let it go. I think everyone is going to not wear them anymore. I feel like teachers may be the ones to keep them on, some teachers may wear them, some may not, but I feel like the majority of teachers will. A lot of them are older, so they should protect themselves because they’re probably more prone to getting sicker than others. And maybe they want to set an example that the kids should still wear them, even when the mandate is lifted.”
Despite many looking at the new policy with an attitude of relief and acceptance, many Midtown community members will continue to wear a mask.
“I have asthma, so I don’t know if I’m going to take my mask off or not,” sophomore Sydney Matthews said. “I don’t know if I’ll feel comfortable around people just yet like that. But I think it’s a personal preference. I don’t think it’s something that everyone has to follow.”
Assistant Principal Willie Vincent will also keep a mask on.
“I will continue to wear my mask because it is very good at keeping allergies at bay,” Vincent said. “Schools are just Petri dishes for germs, colds, flus and I think a lot of us have discovered that we can stay really really healthy in the school building by staying masked up. I will keep mine on until coronavirus is spoken about in the past tense.”