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Mid-South school district will require students to wear masks in the fall

(Source: Tori Gessner, WAVE 3 News)
Published: Jul. 19, 2021 at 9:54 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 20, 2021 at 5:51 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A strong recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states everyone inside schools this fall should mask up.

School districts across the country have a lot to think about when it comes to masking for the upcoming school year.

WMC spoke to the leadership at Frayser Community Schools in Memphis who just released their reopening plan Monday.

“We thought long and hard about this, but it was pretty much a no-brainer for us,” said Westside Middle School Principal Rodney Peterson.

Next month, Peterson will be welcoming back students to campus at full capacity, a first since March 2020. All 350 plus students will be required to wear a mask, no matter their vaccination status.

“Like we absolutely will require masks just for the safety of everybody, students and staff. There here are too many variables there to not do so,” said Peterson.

Many of his six grade students aren’t old enough to get the Pfizer vaccine. Currently, children have to be at least 12 years old to be vaccinated.

“You think about the logistics of the school from breakfast on to lunch where you have kids intermingling with each other based on different grades, you’re automatically putting people at risk,” said Peterson.

Peterson’s policy is right in line with the latest recommendation from AAP, that released new COVID-19 guidance recommending universal masking in school of everyone over the age of two, regardless of vaccination status.

That is a stark difference from an earlier recommendation from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who said fully vaccinated students, teachers, and staff do not need to wear masks at schools.

The conflicting recommendations caused a firestorm on social media. However, mask-wearing got a big boost from U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.

“What we’ve learned during this pandemic is that masks are an effective strategy for preventing the spread of infection, especially for kids who are younger, especially for kids who are not vaccinated. Masks are an important strategy,” said Murthy.

Peterson says that’s not the only strategy he plans to use.

The school is also working on a plan to continue social distancing by keeping students six feet apart while in the classroom. Peterson says he plans to use some of the school’s larger spaces in the school to keep students apart.

We also reached out to Shelby County Schools for a statement about policy of masks in the upcoming school year. We were told they are still working on a plan and will release more details soon.

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