Both the Pell City and St. Clair County school systems have made the decision to end their mask mandate for students and staff, with Pell City ending its mandate this week and St. Clair ending its next Monday. Additionally, visitors to St. Clair schools will have their mask mandate lifted on June 1.
It is important to note that both superintendents, Dr. Jimmy Martin and Dr. Mike Howard, expressed that masks are still encouraged, along with handwashing, social distancing and other tactics to slow the spread of COVID-19.
However, both of the superintendents’ numbers indicate that they are now in a time where it is safe to take this next step.
According to Martin, they used low positivity rates seen after Spring Break as a “major determining factor” in making this decision. While the numbers creeped up slightly following Spring Break, Martin says the numbers are still well below what they saw earlier in the year and into last year. Howard reiterated much of the same, saying that the low COVID numbers drove this decision to release the mask mandate.
“Our positivity rate has dramatically dropped since February,” Howard said. “Things are getting better. Our parents are ready to return to normal and I know the school system is ready to return to normal.”
There was input on the matter from multiple parties, including school board members, parents, staff and others. According to Martin, Pell City made the decision to lift the mask mandate last Thursday, with this past Monday being the first day of it implemented.
‘We are one step closer towards getting back to normal,” Martin said. “Everyone is pulling in the same direction. It is nice to see.”
As an unprecedented school year approaches its final month, there is interest in how this decision to lift the mask mandate will affect school life for the next school year in the Fall. According to Howard, he is “cautiously optimistic” that football season and other sports will return to some sense of normal in the Fall.