With a dip in COVID-19 cases, the Douglas County School System has eased its mask mandate for upper grade level students and staff.

Monday was the first day that middle and high schools were not required to wear masks. Also mask are not being mandated at the DCSS administrative offices.

However, masks will still be mandated for elementary school students, staff and visitors.

“We will continue to evaluate the situation for elementary schools,” Superintendent Trent North wrote in a letter to parents on Friday.

While masks are not being required on the middle and high school level, masks are still required for all students and adults riding school buses.

“I realize that we have many students and staff in our middle and high schools who will still feel more comfortable wearing a mask, and we encourage them to do so,” North wrote in the letter.

DCSS reports new COVID-19 cases weekly. In the most recent report through Nov. 4, the district reported 20 total cases, with the four cases at Chapel Hill High the most at any school location in the county.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed vaccines for children ages 5-11 on the recommendation of the FDA.

This age group covers elementary school age students.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, as of Oct. 28, nearly 6.4 million children younger than 18 have had COVID-19.

“Vaccinating younger children against COVID-19 will bring us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy,” Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said in a released statement. “Our comprehensive and rigorous evaluation of the data pertaining to the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness should help assure parents and guardians that this vaccine meets our high standards.”

North made his recommendation during a recent school board meeting.

“With the easing of the mask mandate in our middle and high schools, I look forward to a semblance of normalcy in light of the COVID outbreak,” North wrote in the letter. “I am grateful for the leadership our Board of Education has provided during these unprecedented times, and, as always, I appreciate the support of our parents and community.”

DCSS implemented a mask mandate Aug. 2, two days before students returned for the new school year.

It was met with some opposition, and many parents expressed those concerns during an Aug. 17 school board meeting.

Last week, Cobb& Douglas Public Health Director Dr. Janet Memark called vaccinating the 5-11 age group a game changer.

“I think it will be hugely beneficial not only to the transmission in schools, but also transmission from schools to home,” Memark said. “Douglas County schools did an excellent job in trying to prevent transmission in the schools, but the vaccines will be an incredible tool to decreasing transmission in the community. The less people there are to get infected with the virus, the better off we will be as a community.”