Eufaula City Schools announced late Friday that due to the number of positive cases of COVID-19 in Barbour County, despite low numbers at each individual school, the current mask requirement while on school grounds will extend until Oct. 1.
Superintendent Joey Brannan said the original plan when the requirement was put in place in August was to recommend masks, rather than require, at the Sept. 20 deadline.
“Our plans were to use the number of positive cases and exposures as a guide to determine if masks were required or recommended at each individual school, with goals of no more than 2% positivity and 10% exposure rates. In most schools each week this school year, we have improved to meet these numbers,” he said. “However, due to the number of positive COVID-19 cases for Barbour County and surrounding counties, I feel it is in the best interest of safety for students and staff members to continue requiring masks.”
Brannan said he believes the numbers will eventually fall, but the “continuing strong presence of COVID-19 in our community” is not to be taken lightly—several two-week shutdowns by several neighboring school systems also heavily factored into the decision.
“We meet frequently to evaluate COVID-19 data and the impact on our students and staff members. We have considered how difficult it would be to close school for two weeks like some systems near us have had to do,” he said. “As much as I do not like requiring masks, I am convinced we are doing the right thing. My goal is to make sure we can safely keep schools open with healthy students and staff members.”
Brannan said their exposure rates have greatly fallen since the mask requirement was put in place.
According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, in the K-12 indoor classroom setting, the close contact definition excludes students who were 3 feet or more from an infected student if both students were engaged in the consistent and correct use of well-fitted masks. If masks are not worn by both individuals, anyone within 6 feet of a positively tested individual is asked to isolate.
Eufaula City Schools follows the most current recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Alabama Department of Education and also partakes in a layered prevention strategy that includes social distancing, washing hands, cleaning and disinfecting. Brannan said they also encourage those ages 12 and over to get vaccinated.
“As always, we appreciate your patience as we work to prepare and educate the young people of Eufaula, and we appreciate your help in keeping our students and employees safe by notifying the school nurse immediately if your child tests positive for COVID-19.” he said. “Thank you for trusting Eufaula City Schools with your children.”