Gov. Kemp to sign order to stop mask mandates in public schools

ATLANTA — Will masks be required in schools this fall? Gov. Brian Kemp says he will sign an executive order to stop those requirements from happening.

The debate over mask requirements in schools have been raging in almost every school district in Georgia.

The order will prevent Georgia’s public schools from implementing mask mandates when schools resume in the fall.

The governor weighed in Wednesday night on Fox News, saying he intends to sign the order most likely on Friday.

“We’re not going to have a mask mandate for our kids. Teachers have had the ability to get vaccinated,” Kemp said. “Certainly, it doesn’t keep anyone from wearing a mask. If parents want their kids to wear a mask or the teachers want to wear a mask, they can certainly do that.”

Channel 2′s Richard Elliot learned that State Superintendent Richard Woods supports the governor’s plan.

“Given the availability of vaccines and the sharp drop in COVID cases, I agree with Governor Kemp that it’s time for our schools to return to normalcy in the fall,” Woods said in a statement to Elliot.

Georgia Association of Educators president Lisa Morgan opposes the order, insisting Georgia is still in the pandemic and though high school students may be eligible for the vaccine, elementary students aren’t, putting their teachers at more risk.

“Everyone has pandemic fatigue,” Morgan said. “So we must continue to protect those young children and we do that by practicing the CDC’s recommended mitigation strategies, which obviously include wearing masks.”

Kemp’s communications director Cody Hall defended the order, saying they are following the science.

“The governor, again, believes with these measured steps, not having mask mandates in schools, makes sense for students and teachers,” Hall said.

Kemp is expected to sign the order on Friday. It would be another executive order the governor has issued this week regarding the coronavirus pandemic. Kemp signed an order on Tuesday against state requiring vaccine passports.

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Local families have mixed feelings about kids having to wear masks at school.

According to Atlanta Public Schools, students who attend any school in this district will still have to put on a mask next year.

Administrators told Channel 2′s Tyisha Fernandes that they’ll continue to evaluate the situation and a lot could change in the next three months when school starts up again.

“I’m just going to be honest with you, I don’t think masks are supposed to be a thing. I hate them and I can’t breathe,” parent Ebbie Parsons said.

Students have had to wear them all year long.

“It was very hard, especially for people who have asthma, and I feel like kids should be free to breathe,” student Ava Wilson said.

In a statement, APS said:

“Atlanta Public Schools (APS) continues to implement our comprehensive, multi-layered COVID-19 health strategy in our schools and buildings which includes surveillance testing, temperature checks, the wearing of masks and encouraging student and staff vaccinations.”

Some parents feel it’s way too soon to lift a mask mandate. They realize COVID-19 numbers are down but people are still getting sick.

“I’m going to be super excited because I hate wearing a mask. I barely can breathe in them,” student Sienna Reid told Fernandes.

Parsons is vaccinated, but he understands this is really a decision parents have to make for their own children.

“I recognize and respect it. I mean, we’ve suffered deaths, how can you not understand it?” Parsons said.

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