Shelby County Schools (SCS) will require masks for all individuals in schools for this upcoming school year – even for vaccinated individuals. However, employees in administrative offices are only strongly encouraged to wear masks. The district issued the announcement last Tuesday, citing the influx of regular and Delta variant COVID-19 cases.
“Like school districts across the nation, SCS is following science and data to guide decisions about providing COVID-19 protection for students, teachers and staff,” stated SCS. “The District is mindful of the rising cases and the spread of the Delta variant. Therefore, masks should be worn indoors (schools) and on buses by all employees and students, regardless of vaccination status until further notice.”
SCS Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray appeared on CNN to discuss the mask mandate for all – even vaccinated individuals.
“I just don’t want to put students at risk. And, you know, we can’t just ask the question, ‘Have you been vaccinated? Are you vaccinated?’ You can’t ask that because of HIPAA reasons,” said Ray.
Ray claimed that parents and the public at large were “very supportive” of the decision. He said that this was even more the case because people realized that COVID-19 disproportionately affects “black and brown bodies.”
“I appreciate the opportunity to share our #ReturnStronger plans with @FWhitfield @CNN,” tweeted Ray. “When we return to class, we will wear [a] mask. We will NOT politicize mask wearing. Safety remains our top priority as we implement COVID-19 protocols. @SCSK12Unified.”
— Dr. Joris M. Ray (@SCSSuptRay) July 24, 2021
The Tennessee Star inquired with SCS why the district chose to require masks even for vaccinated individuals, though current CDC guidance says that vaccinated individuals don’t need to wear masks. A SCS spokesperson would only tell The Star that the decision wasn’t set in stone.
“We would like to emphasize; the District’s decision is ‘until further notice,'” responded the spokesperson.
The Star inquired further with SCS if this stipulation indicated that they may reverse their mask mandate for the fall or spring semester. They didn’t respond to our follow-up question by press time.
Additionally, SCS will continue to close its water fountains, instead providing bottled water or encouraging water containers, as well as enforcing social distancing protocols, temperature checks, prohibition of shared school supplies, and daily cleaning protocols. SCS announced that it will resume all school activities including athletics and field trips, resume parent in-person meetings, and reopen both playgrounds and recess areas.
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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to [email protected].
Photo “School Children in Masks” by Metro Nashville Schools.