FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — Fulton County School leaders are easing COVID-19 restrictions on campuses with just a month left in the school year.
Thursday, Superintendent Mike Looney announced effective May 3 at high schools only, he will lift mandated mask wearing at outside school activities, such as physical education and recess, as well as at school events that take place outside, including graduations.
He’ll lift the same restrictions at elementary and middle schools two weeks later. Looney said masks will still be recommended.
The district will also lift capacity restrictions for visitors to outdoor stadiums for sporting events and graduations effective May 17.
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“We’ve received hundreds of emails over the course of the last 48 hours or so. And it’s about split,” Looney told his school board. “We have a significant difference of opinion in our school community and our approach is slow measured and cautious. I recognize that for some of our families, it’s not fast enough. I also recognize for many of our families, it’s too fast.”
Looney told the board he’s following guidance from health officials to making his decisions.
“We’re doing the best we can to thread the needle in concert and in consultation with the Fulton County Board of Health,” he said.
Looney said he will still mandate masks inside of classrooms for the remainder of the school year and into the summer, unless guidance changes on that.
“I’m very hopeful as your Superintendent that we can get to a place where masks are optional, or not even needed,” he said.
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The Superintendent also announced the district doesn’t intend to offer a duel track virtual option for students next school year, citing the importance of children being face-to-face.
“We cannot expect teachers to teach simultaneously again next year, it’s just not doable,” he said, adding parents who want to keep their kids at home will have options through the district’s newly created permanent virtual school option.
The decision to ease restrictions is being met with mixed reviews from parents when Channel 2′s Mike Petchenik asked them about it.
“I fully approve of it,” said parent, Joe Duffy, whose daughter attends Centennial High School in Roswell. “Almost 30% of the people in Georgia have gotten both vaccines, myself included. And even my daughter has gotten her first vaccine. So we’re hopefully, near the end of this.”
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Parent Greg Hartman’s son, Cole, is graduating from high school in May after a year of virtual learning. He told Petchenik he’s concerned about the decision to ease mask restrictions.
This disease, this COVID-19 is our enemy. It’s a war,” he said. “And we’re down here in the weeds talking about should we be wearing a face mask at a graduation party at a graduation event
I don’t get it. I don’t understand this at all.”
Hartman said he’s weighing whether he and his son will attend the ceremony because he said his son’s school is already mostly virtual and he believes most families will wear masks, even if not required.
“I’m not putting my son’s life at risk,” he said. “I’m not putting my life at risk.”