As the county’s children return to school this upcoming Tuesday, Pell City School System is requiring masks on school buses, while St. Clair County School System is not.
“That’s due to the fact that we have a U.S. department of transportation mandate for any mass transportation, such as airplanes, public railways, and the department of transportation defines a school bus as public transport,” said Dr. James Martin, superintendent of the Pell City School System.
"Passengers and drivers must wear a mask on school buses, including on buses operated by public and private school systems, subject to the exclusions and exemptions in CDC’s Order," which is stated on the CDC's website and in the United States Department of Education's COVID-19 2021 plan.
“I’m not going to discredit what they say, but that is not what we were told yesterday about the interpretation of the law, so we’re going with strongly recommended,” said Mike Howard, superintendent of St. Clair County Schools.
Neither schools are requiring masks at any point during the day. However, St. Clair County Schools are mandating that all guests must wear masks.
While the school systems cannot enforce masks for teachers and students, it’s highly recommended by both school boards and the CDC that everyone does.
“Teachers are highly recommended to wear masks, and we do have some who have been wearing them. It’s a personal choice,” said Martin.
“Due to the circulating and highly contagious Delta variant, CDC recommends universal indoor masking by all students (age 2 and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status,” stated the CDC on their Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 webpage.
At this time neither of the schools schools are not going to be doing temperature checks daily, but are prepared to return to this safety procedure and others if the virus numbers begin to climb.
Both schools are deeply sanitizing their campuses, and plan to notify parents if their child has been within a classroom with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Martin feels confident that if parents stay on top of keeping their children home if they’re sick, that’s one of the best ways to keep the virus from spreading.
“It’s not worth the risk,” said Martin. “As long as people do that, we should be in good shape.
Both schools are planning to go on normally with the football season.
“Alabama High School Athletic Associates usually let us know something. They’re assessing the situation constantly, just like we are,” said Martin.
Howard said that his biggest concern is the community having patience while they monitor the ongoing situation.
“Continuing to grow and thrive academically in the midst of the pandemic and we hope for patience and understanding because, with us being under a health order, it makes education that much more difficult,” said Howard.