By Cady Inabinett
Dr. Lewis Brooks, superintendent of the Shelby County School System, announced Aug. 26 that masking will be required while indoors at all Shelby County public schools until Oct. 1. With this update, the Shelby County School System joins more than 100 Alabama school districts that have mask requirements in place.
In a letter to the Shelby County school community, Brooks attributed the change in policy to “the potential adverse impact on instruction and school operations.” He adds that the school system, “feel[s] strongly it is necessary,” to implement a mask mandate to, “positively impact the rising number of cases in our community,” and avoid school shutdowns.
Brooks also wrote, “Our goal is to have as traditional a school year as possible, but this health crisis continues to force us to respond and change course in ways that we have never experienced.”
He acknowledged the controversy surrounding the issue as well, writing, “This temporary change will be welcomed for some and frustrating for others.”
Students will not be required to wear masks during recess, lunch and while outdoors for P.E. classes. Brooks added that, “schools will also make sure that students are given mask breaks during the day.” Additionally, mitigation efforts such as cleaning, hand washing and social distancing “as much as possible” are being implemented as well.
With masking protocols in place, only students who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 will have to quarantine at home, instead of everyone who has been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, as authorized by the Alabama Department of Public Health’s Back to School Toolkit. Brooks wrote that this will reduce the number of students who will have to quarantine due to close contact and allow more students to remain in school.
Shelby County Schools reported 355 active student and staff COVID-19 cases during a period spanning from Sept. 1-7. This is 1.5% of students and staff district-wide. Montevallo schools accounted for 26 of these cases, meaning 1.6% of the Montevallo school population had COVID-19.
Within the Shelby County school system, the Vincent district had the highest positive rates for the Sept. 1-7 period, with 25 active cases, or 2.6% of their population.
In addition to Shelby County Schools, nearby Alabaster City Schools and Pelham City Schools are requiring universal indoor making, with Alabaster City Schools putting their mandate in place shortly after Shelby County Schools on Sept. 7.
Brooks was contacted for further comment on the subject, but did respond. Additionally, principals of Montevallo Elementary School, Montevallo Middle School and Montevallo High School were contacted for comment. All either did not respond or wished to not comment.