- Muscle Shoals City Schools
Superintendent Statement on Health Practices After Spring Break & Beyond
March 19, 2021
On April 9, Governor Kay Ivey's order requiring a mask be worn in public places when within six feet of a person from another household will expire. When the governor announced this decision last month, she made clear that she was doing so due to her preference for personal responsibility over a public mandate.
The governor also stressed that wearing a mask is a common sense, best practice during the pandemic and that she would continue to wear hers when social distancing is not feasible. “We hope that people won’t see the end of the mask mandate as just carte blanche to behave any way that they want,” Ivey said.
Additionally, the state’s top health official, Dr. Scott Harris, reinforced that the end of the mask mandate is not an indication that we should stop protecting ourselves from COVID-19. On Friday, March 5, Dr. Harris said, “There is nothing magical about the date of April 9. We don’t want the public to think that’s the day we all stop taking precautions.”
The governor’s extension to the mask mandate allowed entities, such as schools and businesses, time to consider their 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.
The MSCS administrative team has reviewed updated guidance from the Alabama Department of Public Health, Alabama Department of Education, as well as, the Center for Disease Control. Additionally, we have consulted with state and local health experts. Like many other schools and businesses, we agree that masks help slow the spread of COVID-19 to others.
We look forward to the day when we will eliminate the requirement for masks in our schools, but we are not quite there yet. Muscle Shoals City Schools will continue its protocols and require students, staff, and visitors to wear masks inside our buildings in situations where social distancing is not possible.
Our goal has always been to have a sustainable model of instruction – both in-person and in remote learning - to meet staff and students' needs. We believe the protocols we have had in place since August have allowed us to deliver those instructional models with minimal interruptions and without closing campuses for extended periods.
On April 9, we will have completed nearly 30 weeks of school wearing masks and observing other health practices designed to keep us healthy and safe. Six more weeks of the same practices will help protect several important milestones still yet to take place, such as awards day ceremonies, prom, spring sports, fine arts performances, career tech competitions, and importantly, graduation. It will also help keep the doors of our schools open for continuing in-person learning.
Social distancing is not always feasible in the school environment. In some situations, the masks are the only protection our students and staff have. With schools being full of unvaccinated people, it makes sense to keep the masks as a requirement and err on the side of protecting students and staff rather than the side of possibly putting them at risk. Our schools have adjusted to this new normal, and we do not anticipate the expiration of the governor’s mask mandate changing many of our daily routine in schools.
Therefore, the following health protocols will remain in effect for Muscle Shoals City Schools:
- Facial coverings (masks) - all persons (staff and students in 2nd grade and above) will wear a mask or other facial covering that covers his or her nostrils and mouth at all times when within six feet of a person from another household with exceptions for practical necessity, exercise, effective communication, essential job function, and when outdoors.
- Social distancing - The ideal distance to prevent/slow the spread of viruses is 6 feet. There is evidence to suggest that, in the absence of a 6 foot space barrier, distances as little as 3 feet provide a level of protection, particularly for children.
- Personal hygiene - Hand sanitizer is available in each classroom and throughout the hallways of each campus. Staff will constantly encourage hand washing and proper ways to sneeze and cough to slow the spread of germs.
- Water fountains - staff and students should bring their own water as fountains are closed. Exposures, quarantines, and contact tracing – we will follow the latest guidance from the Alabama Department of Public Health.
- Other limitations – we will continue to follow restrictive practices related to assemblies, visitors, daytime field trips, bus transportation, outside food, eating in cafeterias, and the use of lockers.
I am encouraged by updated CDC guidelines released today relaxing social distancing for children from 6 feet to 3 feet but holding to the mandate on masks. According to the CDC, school staff must still adhere to the 6 feet guidelines. This is all welcome news and, hopefully, a sign of good things to come.
We appreciate the community supporting our efforts to prioritize the health and safety of our students, staff and community. We all look forward to the day when masks will no longer be a requirement, based on guidance from our local health authorities and ALSDE. For the remainder of the school year, we will continue to mask up and stay safe when indoors and in close proximity to one another.
Dr. Chad Holden