As vaccinations continue to rollout in the country, there seems to be a growing number of people that are beginning to think that life is getting back to normal. As I have been out in the world I am seeing less and less mask wearage as well as a general comfort level of people being around each other without a mask on.

While it may seem like life is getting back to normal, for many metro Atlanta students, life (at least their school life) may still be altered to some degree. 

With some metro Atlanta school districts choosing to require students to wear masks and practice social distancing (when possible) for the upcoming school year, it seems like one should pose the question: What are all these schools worried about for the upcoming school year, in regards to Covid? 

One of the first things these school systems seem to be worried about is the Delta variant of the virus. First identified in India, the variant is thought to be even more contagious than the strain(s) we have been dealing with over the past year, according to Yale Medicine’s article, 5 Things To Know About the Delta Variant.

While school systems want to get back to normalcy, a more contagious variant of the virus is definitely not ideal at the moment. 

Another concern for metro Atlanta schools are the vulnerability levels for many Atlanta school districts. For example, the vulnerability levels for Fulton, Clayton, DeKalb and Cobb County all range from high to very high, according to CovidActNow. Vaccination rates for those counties also range from 36 to 52 percent.

Also children under the age of 12 are still not eligible for the vaccine, leaving a large number of students that will simply not be able to get it. Thus possibly leaving them more susceptible to the Delta variant if it is more contagious and/or harmful than the strain(s) of Covid we have been dealing with.

This still is not the last of the issues that these school districts will have to deal with. Considering the intense controversy over mask wearage for students across the country, some metro Atlanta school districts will inevitably have to deal with parents being unhappy about their students being required to wear masks. Especially when you consider Governor Kemp’s decision regarding mask wearage

So where are these school districts supposed to go from here? It would seem that these school districts only have so many options, one being to let students simply return to school normally, with masks being optional for both students and staff or requiring masks for students and staff.

It seems that between these two decisions there really is not a straightforward solution. At this point the decisions will inevitably come down to the values of the school system that is making them. 

Do you require masks, which would inevitably lead to unsatisfied stakeholders, parents and community leaders or do you anger the parents who feel that masks do prevent the spread of the virus, by making masks optional?

It will be interesting to see how all of these things will shape out over time, both in the first weeks of school and throughout the entire semester.  

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