The Douglas County School System is “strongly” recommending masks in all buildings as students prepare to return to classes with COVID-19 cases spiking.

In a letter sent to parents Monday morning, Superintendent Trent North outlined the district’s plan for in-person learning amid a surge of COVID cases in the metro area.

The Georgia Department of Public Health on Friday reported 24,320 confirmed and probable coronavirus infections, the second-highest total of the pandemic.

Some metro school districts elected to go to remote learning the first week of classes after a two-week holiday break.

DCSS teachers and staff return to work on Tuesday and students return Wednesday.

North said the district will continue to monitor the positive COVID-19 case rate and adjust its face covering policy accordingly.

Each DCSS school will be treated as it own community, and face coverings will be adjusted on a school-by-school basis depending on its daily positive rate.

Masks will be required for schools with positive COVID-19 case rates of 5% or more (high spread), North said. Schools with positive cases at a rate of 2-4.9% (moderate spread) will continue with masks recommended, he said.

Face coverings are required for all students and adults riding school buses, North wrote in citing federal regulations.

DCSS began the school year in August with masks mandatory in all school buildings.

Several parents protested the face covering policy during an August board meeting.

“The new year has arrived with COVID-19 continuing to be a challenge in our community,” North wrote in the letter Monday. “We know that COVID-19 is an ever changing situation, one that we cannot predict.”

The letter stated that when a school site reaches high spread, parents will be notified prior to the next school day that face coverings will be required.

North said that the goal is “keep schools open” for in-person learning.

“Our expectation is that parents and our community are partnering with us to follow the same guidelines when away from schools,” North wrote. “Therefore, please encourage your child(ren) to wear their masks properly and follow DCSS guidelines and protocols designed to keep them safe.”

In a letter to parents Monday morning, Alexander Principal Chris Small encouraged students to wear masks.

Small wrote in his letter that Alexander had a 0.1% positive rate (low spread) when school let out for the holiday break.

However, he said he expects that to change when the new numbers are released.

“With the current high rate of positive cases in our community, I do anticipate the school’s level of spread could change after this week,” Small wrote. “Therefore, even though face coverings are not currently required, to be proactive, I will start wearing mine upon return. I have encouraged my faculty and staff to do the same and I also invite our students to consider (it) as well.”

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