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Gwinnett County Public Schools updates mask guidance for 2nd semester to consider community transmission

November 17, 2021 

     As of January 4, 2022, Gwinnett County Public Schools will implement updated mask guidance based on community transmission as determined by the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH)—https://dph.georgia.gov/county-indicator-reports.

  • Masks will be required in all GCPS facilities during periods of “Substantial” or “High” community transmission.
  • When community transmission has been maintained at the “Moderate” level for two consecutive weeks, GCPS will transition to strongly recommending masks in all of its facilities. (This means that if Gwinnett County has been in the “Moderate” range for the two weeks prior to the beginning of the 2nd semester, students and staff will return in January with masks strongly recommended.)
  • Masks will still be mandated on buses in compliance with federal mandates.

     On Monday, January 3, GCPS will communicate via SchoolMessenger and post on the district website the status of community transmission and mask guidance for students and staff returning to school and work that week.

     Masks continue to be an important mitigation strategy in the fight against COVID. In addition to strongly recommending the use of masks during sustained “Moderate” levels of community transmission, GCPS will maintain current layered mitigation strategies. Families can monitor conditions at their school and within the district by reviewing GCPS’ COVID dashboard, which is updated daily on school days. Information about the level of community transmission, along with a link to the DPH, will be added to the GCPS website to allow families to easily find this information.

     GCPS will continue to follow the Georgia DPH guidance regarding isolation for confirmed and probable cases and quarantine for those identified as close contacts.

Students:  

  • During periods when masks are not required, students identified as close contacts will be required to quarantine unless they have been fully vaccinated or have had COVID within the last 90 days. During quarantine, students will earn asynchronously, accessing assignments through eCLASS or through materials provided by their teachers.
  • Note that during times when masks are required, quarantine protocols will follow the practices currently in place (no quarantine if both students are wearing masks, etc.)

Staff:

  • There is no change for quarantine guidance for staff members—staff who are within six feet of a positive case for at least 15 minutes (with or without a mask) must quarantine unless they are fully vaccinated or have had COVID within the last 90 days.

     As more of our community members are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine—including our youngest students—and there has been ongoing improvement in COVID conditions, GCPS leaders saw an opportunity to implement a metric that takes into account community transmission rates in its masking guidance.

     Superintendent Dr. Calvin J. Watts explains, “When the decision was made to implement the mask mandate in July, primary considerations were the high transmission rates in the community and the fact that our students were ineligible for the vaccine. Since then, much progress has been made in terms of decreasing transmission rates of COVID-19 in our community and vaccinations are now available for individuals ages 5 and older.

     “While I believe our GCPS mask requirement has helped us and our community to mitigate the spread of COVID, conditions have changed and we are at a point where we can and should revisit mask guidance. Know that GCPS will continue to strongly encourage masks during times of ‘Moderate’ and even ‘Low’ transmission as part of our layered mitigation strategies, and move quickly to reinstate the requirement for masks should community spread rise to the ‘Substantial’ or ‘High’ range.

     “Experience over the last 20 months has taught us how quickly things can change. This plan provides the flexibility for our schools to safely manage that change. Working together, we will navigate the COVID-19 situation through the spring, ensuring we address the needs of students and staff.”