- Muscle Shoals City Schools
Governor Extends Mask Mandate 3.4.21
As of today, Alabama’s public safety health order requiring a mask that covers the nose and mouth at all times when within six feet of a person from another household has been extended until April 9, 2021. I applaud the governor’s decision as this will allow us to get beyond Spring Break and provide the necessary time for our staff to become fully vaccinated before considering any changes to our current health and safety measures.
The governor stated that the one month extension allows entities, such as schools and businesses, ample time to revise their current procedures and make adjustments ahead of the deadline. While the governor stated that she will not extend the mask mandate beyond April 9, school districts have the flexibility to mandate masks or other health protocols if they choose to do so.
We have been very transparent in the fact that, while social distancing is important and encouraged, it is not always feasible in the school environment to keep students six feet away from each other. The masks have been a vital tool in slowing the spread of the coronavirus and so many other typical student illnesses, such as flu and stomach bugs, in our schools.
Other than a few transitions to remote learning, we have been fortunate to consistently have our schools open five days a week for in-person learning. Believe it or not, there are seven districts in Alabama that have had no in-person learning this year. Some districts are still only allowing children in classrooms a limited number of days per week. I am a believer that there is no substitute for in-person learning, and I do not want to make a decision that could hinder our ability to keep our schools open and our students and staff safe in classrooms.
The question has already been asked, “What will Muscle Shoals City Schools do after April 9?” The answer is, “We shall see.” As we have done since the beginning of the school year, we will monitor COVID-19 case numbers in our schools and community. Should we continue trending in the right direction as the vaccine becomes more readily available to the general public, we will re-evaluate our “Back to School” plans and consider changes that are safe to implement.
We’ve come a long way together, and we will finish this school year with the same level of cooperation, understanding, and flexibility that we have all demonstrated since day one. I am so appreciative to our stakeholders for being our greatest cheerleaders in the most challenging school year ever.
On a separate note, I am extremely encouraged by what I see in our midyear data reports. School districts across the U.S. are analyzing what we are calling “learning loss” or “unfinished learning” as a result of the pandemic’s disruption to schools. For Muscle Shoals, while learning gaps do exist, the “unfinished learning” for our students has been minimal due to our ability to be in school five days a week. We cannot stress enough the importance of in-person learning!
On or before April 9, the day the governor’s current order expires, we will release any updates to our COVID-19 protocols that may impact our staff and students for the final six weeks of the 2020-2021 school year. We look forward to finishing strong, writing the #TheNextChapter and taking it to #TheNextLevel
Dr. Chad Holden