August 6, 2021
A Message from Superintendent Jeff Mayo
Today, the Shelby County Health Department issued a mask mandate for all schools in Shelby County beginning Monday, August 9, 2021. According to the SCHD directive, anyone on school premises must wear a mask while indoors, regardless of the individual’s vaccination status. The mandate currently does not extend to outdoor activities. The SCHD said they are issuing this mandate due to rising pediatric COVID-19 cases and the prevalence of the Delta variant in the county.
As you know from the back to school COVID-19 plan we released several weeks ago and from our initial announcement in May, we made masks optional for all students, employees and visitors on campus. As long as mask-wearing remained a recommendation only, it was our intention to allow families and employees to make that personal decision for themselves.
Considering the SCHD’s latest decision to issue this mask mandate for schools, we must now reevaluate our mask policy. Per ACS Policy 6.403, the SCHD mandate signifies a communicable disease outbreak; therefore, all students, employees and visitors on our campuses must wear a mask while indoors until further notice. Students must also wear masks on school buses. Masks will be available at all school sites for students and staff who may need one.
Since March 2020 when the pandemic first came to our region, we have been consistent in following the directives and mandates of the Shelby County Health Department. When the health department removed its mask mandate in May, we removed our mandate. When the health department removes this mandate, we will do the same. While we certainly intended this decision to be left up to individuals and families, the SCHD directive is clear that masks must be worn at schools while indoors. The SCHD said no exceptions should be made other than for those who suffer from a severe respiratory illness, as certified by a physician (documentation will be required).
There are no plans at this time to make additional changes to our back to school plan, but we will monitor all developments from the health department and TSSAA and make adjustments if needed. For now: Schools will operate at full capacity, meals will be served in the cafeteria, and sports and extra-curricular activities will continue at full capacity.
We realize many of you will not support this decision, though many others will celebrate it. While the SCHD mandate may be divisive, our job as a school system is to educate students no matter the circumstances. Last year, our students and employees proved that effective learning can still take place even with a mask mandate in place, and there’s no reason to believe that our students won’t be just as successful while this mandate is in effect. It is our hope that you will understand the position the district is in and that we are doing what is mandated by our public health agency as one strategy to protect our children during this ongoing pandemic.
To recap, due to the Shelby County Health Department’s latest mask mandate for schools:
- All students, employees and visitors on ACS campuses must wear masks while indoors until the SCHD school mask mandate is lifted. Those who are vaccinated must also wear masks.
- Those riding the bus to and from school must wear masks.
- Masks will be available at schools for students and staff who may need them.
- Masks are not required for outdoor activities.
- No mask exceptions will be made, other than for those who suffer from a severe respiratory illness, as certified by a physician.
- There are no plans at this time to make additional changes to our back to school plan, but we will monitor all health department and TSSAA guidelines.
- Until then:
- Schools will remain at full capacity
- Meals will be served and consumed in the cafeteria
- Sports and extra-curricular activities will operate at full capacity
Thank you for your understanding and support as we continue to provide the best education for the students of Arlington Community Schools!
Jeff Mayo, ACS Superintendent