Masks will be optional in Bartow County Schools this fall. On Monday, Bartow County Board of Education Superintendent Dr. Phillip Page told WBHF that mask use will not be mandated when school is back in session next month.


“At this point in time, in working through our teacher and parent advisory committees, that recommendation has not been made,” said Dr. Page. “Therefore, for our reopening, we will continue with the same guidelines that we had last year for our schools, and that is that masks will be optional for staff and students.”


Earlier this week, the American Academy of Pediatrics released new COVID-19 guidance for schools recommending mask use for all children aged 2 years and older. The AAP advocates for a “layered” approach, which also includes vaccinations and good personal hygiene.


Dr. Gary Voccio, Health Director of the Northwest Health District, echoed this support of a layered approach. He said that the fall could bring more of a rise in cases, and that the Delta variant could very well drive this increase. However, he emphasized that decisions of COVID-19 protocols will be left up to individual school districts.


“If numbers keep rising, it certainly would be a strong recommendation for considerations of masking in schools – [or] anywhere,” Dr. Voccio said. “In a church or grocery store, etc., it may be a recommendation. But […] I don’t think we’ll get a mandate.”