Masks will be mandatory in Memphis classrooms during the upcoming school year.
District officials will require all students, teachers, and school-based employees to wear face coverings, making Shelby County Schools one of the only school districts in Tennessee to maintain the strict COVID-19 protocol.
Memphis Superintendent Joris Ray made the announcement Tuesday evening during his report at the Shelby County Schools board meeting.
"These are some 2021 guidance that I know that many of our parents have been asking for," he said. "We're going to continue to wear masks until further notice."
Ray added that the decision was driven by the latest guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommended masks for all unvaccinated students, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, which on Monday recommended masks for all students next school year.
Adults and children 12 and over are now eligible to be vaccinated.
Despite pandemic fatigue and resistance from some groups that refuse to mask up, face coverings have proved to slow the spread of COVID-19. Local health officials and medical experts are particularly concerned about the spread of the virus locally, given the rise of the more contagious delta variant and the low vaccination rates in the South. About 38% of people are fully vaccinated in Tennessee, and according to reporting from The New York Times, the state has one of the highest rates of new cases in the country, making it a hotspot for what has been called a "pandemic of the unvaccinated."
Memphis students also will be required to wear masks on school buses and continue social distancing practices, and they will be discouraged from sharing supplies. The district will use plexiglass barriers and maintain the disinfectant protocols established last school year.
The first day of school for students in Shelby County Schools is Aug. 9.
"Memphis district will require masks next school year" was originally published by Chalkbeat, a nonprofit news organization covering public education. Sign up for their newsletters at bit.ly/tnchalk.
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