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Camden County residents split over school mask mandate

In Camden County, the community transmission rate, which is the number of positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents, has spiked to 942 from 72 last spring.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Parents and teachers in Camden County, Georgia are preparing for the new school year, which begins next Monday.

Many believed Summer Vacation would put distance between the COVID-19 experience of last spring and the new school year. Yet, it has not.

In Camden County, the community transmission rate, which is the number of positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents, has spiked to 942 from 72 last spring.

It forced the school district to institute a face mask mandate for staff, students and teachers effective Tuesday.

At Steffens Restaurant, residents shared their views of the mandate, revealing a wide gap in the community.

"Mask should be required for students and teachers," Chris James, who has four grandchildren attending the district's schools this fall, said. "Plus the spacing would be six feet apart; they've got to work it out."

Others disagree with the school district's mask mandate.  

"Give me a 100% good reason why the kids should wear a mask," said Dale O'Berry. "I don't think they should."

Under its Safe Reopening plan, the district announced several significant changes in addition to the face mask requirement.

Among them:

  • Assemblies/Large gatherings during the school day are on hold until further notice.
  • We will be cancelling our annual Convocation this year so teachers and administrators will have more time to prepare to receive students in their classrooms for the new year. Mask/Face Coverings
  • The wearing of masks/face coverings by faculty, staff, students, and visitors are required in all schools, offices, and buildings. This mask requirement will be reevaluated as the transmission rate for Camden County decreases to below 200. 
  • No keypads, salad bars, or self-service that includes multiple students touching one serving utensil will be used 
  • Parents should pre-screen students before sending Schools Procedures them to school or bus stops each day. Any student with a measured temperature of 100.0 or higher or any COVID-19 symptoms should not be sent to school. They will be sent home if they come to school with symptoms. 
  • All employees should screen their temperature daily. Employees should not report to work if they have a measured temperature of 100.0 or higher.
  • All classrooms will be supplied with hand sanitizer and disinfectant.
  • Best practices for hand washing and social distancing will be implemented. 
  • Masks will be required for all faculty/staff, students, and visitors to our schools and offices.
  • Custodial staff will be provided disinfecting equipment and supplies. 
  • Classrooms, cafeterias and high-traffic areas will be sanitized frequently.
  • Contact among students will be limited as much as possible. 
  • Social distancing of at least three feet will be maintained whenever possible

Makaela Polley, a wife and mother of two, is disappointed with the school board's face mask mandate.

Polley said face mask use should not be required for children and rather should be an individual's decision.

After the school board announced its reopening plans, Polley decided to homeschool her daughter.

"My decision is until this nightmare is over, I will be homeschooling," Polley said. "That took a big turn because I had planned on going back to work."

The district said once the COVID-19 transmission rate gets below 200, it will reconsider the face mask policy.

"I don't think the government, the CDC or doctors are really putting out enough info about the adverse effects on kids after being masked up for a long period of time," Polley said.