Do school districts have the authority to mandate masks? Yes, according to the Alabama Department of Education

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DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — Next week, school will be back in session for many districts throughout the Wiregrass but with many COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations increasing across the state at alarming numbers, many parents are wondering how will school look when their kids return to class.

Enterprise City Schools announced on Tuesday, they will require masks. Houston County Schools announced on Thursday, the district will not require masks. Ozark City Schools plans to announce their plans Thursday evening.

Doctor Michael Sibley, the Director of Communications with the Alabama Department of Education wants to emphasize that each individual school district around the state of Alabama has the power to require masks this upcoming school year for the students, teachers, and staff within their districts.

Doctor Sibley said as of right now there are no blanket mandates for districts around the state to require masks or social distancing measures. He said each district will have to make that decision because each district is impacted differently.

“The case is one part of the state, might not be the case in another part of the state,” Sibley said. “We are leaving it up ultimately to the people on the ground who know how they are being impacted, who can see the data in their individual school system.”

Sibley said the goal is to go into the school year with a sense of normalcy. The department wants students and teachers to go back to regular instruction and avoid having to result to virtual learning.

According to Sibley, the Department of Education works with the Alabama Department of Public Health to plan how to keep their district safe and healthy.

“Everyone is wanting to know what that threshold is right? At what point do we cancel school? At what point do we revert back to virtual learning?” Sibley said. “That is a call that is going to have to be made by the Alabama Department of Public Health.”

Sibley said school districts will also have to continue to report their COVID-19 numbers to ADPH this upcoming school year.

He encourages parents to follow the instruction from their local superintendents and school boards going forward with optimism because sometimes these decisions are made to ensure academic goals are achieved.

“My message to parents would be to continue to move forward, give our students and our teachers some grace as we will probably adjust and have to make adjustments as we go into the school year but believe that we will have a successful school year,” Sibley said.”

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