Metro school districts say future remains unclear over mask mandates despite governor’s order

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — In many ways, Gwinnett County has been ground zero in the debate over masks in schools.

Everyone from parents to school board leaders are trying to figure out the word that Gov. Brian Kemp intends to sign an executive order on Friday that would prevent Georgia’s public schools from implementing mask mandates when schools resume in the fall.

Gwinnett County Schools is one of many districts where a mask mandate remains in effect.

Unclear though, is for how long.

As Darrel Wilkerson’s daughter got her diploma Thursday from Archer High School, he still has younger children to worry about. Wilkerson told Channel 2′s Tony Thomas that he wants the masks to stay.

“It’s an exciting day. We are glad to be back having a live graduation. I think graduating from high school is a big accomplishment,” Wilkerson said. “It’s always going to make you nervous because you don’t want one of your kids to get infected and bring it back home.”

Other parents and students are applauding Kemp’s order.

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“When we had to wear masks, I couldn’t breathe that well and all my friends were sad,” third-grader Sophia Terei said.

Some of Holly Terei’s kids are set to attend summer programs in Gwinnett County Schools. They start in two-and-a-half weeks. Gwinnett still has a mask mandate in place, and if that continues, Holly Terei told Thomas that she isn’t sure if her kids will go.

“At the end of the day, all parents want is a choice. Just give us a choice,” she said.

Thomas asked Gwinnett County School Board chair Everton Blair about when the mask mandate might lift. He didn’t know either.

“We weren’t expecting an announcement of this shape this quickly,” Blair said.

The focus, he said, should be on vaccinations.

“I’ll be looking forward to talking with my board and understanding what that means to continue to strongly encourage mask usage,” Blair said.

The mask mandate continues, technically, at least for now in Gwinnett schools. Classes ended on Wednesday.

Summer sessions start June 14 with more than 20,000 students expected to attend.