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Message from the Superintendent - Mask requirement continues into 2021-22
Photo of Superintendent Dr. Terry OattsAs we prepare for the 2021-22 school year, we are excited to welcome back our students for five full days of instruction a week. While most of our students are returning for in-person instruction, we are providing a parallel virtual learning option for those of our students whose parents indicated such a preference. Students in the parallel virtual option will be taught exclusively by teachers assigned to teach virtually. Our in-person students will be taught exclusively by their assigned in-person teachers.

An important question that our stakeholders have is - what mitigation measures RCPS will require for the 2021-22 school year? After careful consideration and deliberation, I have determined that we will continue all mitigation measures including maintaining our indoor and bus mask requirements for all staff and students as we begin our new school year. Social distancing of at least three feet between students where practicable, regular handwashing and/or access to hand sanitizer, and mask requirements indoors at each of our schools and school facilities are our core mitigation measures. In addition to these core measures, RCPS led the entire state in offering additional high-impact mitigation measures in the form of access to district-wide telehealth services through our partnership with Kids'-Doc-On-Wheels. This partnership includes access to COVID-19 testing and vaccinations for our staff, students, and their families. Throughout the spring and summer, we have continued to offer COVID-19 testing and vaccinations to our stakeholders. We have also continued to partner with our regional health department - Gwinnett, Newton, Rockdale (GNR) - on providing COVID-19 vaccines and required non-COVID-19 vaccines for our students. We will continue to offer COVID-19 testing and vaccinations for the foreseeable future.

The rationale I offer for beginning the 2021-22 school year maintaining our core and high-impact mitigation measures is that 44% of our students do not yet have access to vaccines as they are under the age of 12. The CDC has indicated that all unvaccinated individuals should continue wearing masks indoors. While RCPS has conveniently provided seamless access to COVID-19 vaccines for those of our eligible school-aged students, it is still the case that the 12-year-old to 18-year-old age demographic lags in vaccinations by comparison to the other age demographic groups. The combination of the non-availability of COVID-19 vaccines to our Kindergarten through 6th grade students, the under vaccination of our 12-year-old to 18-year-old students, and increasing positivity rates locally and statewide, largely fueled by the predominant Delta Variant of COVID-19, requires that we err on the side of caution by working to thwart a potential new surge in infections that disproportionately targets our students.  

As we have done throughout this pandemic, we will continue to carefully monitor our local public health data to inform our ongoing mitigation measures. As Superintendent, I remain committed, as does the Rockdale County Board of Education, to prioritizing our staff and students’ safety and well-being. I commit to our stakeholders that my pandemic decision-making will be informed by public health not public sentiment.