COBB COUNTY, Ga. — Cobb County's superintendent announced masks will remain optional and there will be changes to the school district's quarantine policy.
Superintendent Chris Ragsdale announced the changes during a school board meeting Thursday night.
Cobb County is the only Atlanta-area school district that doesn’t require masks for in-person learning. The school district reported last week close to 600 active COVID cases in schools.
"Masks are strongly encouraged, but they will remain optional at this time," the school district said in a part in a release. "When looking at school districts that have mask mandates in place, some districts have higher numbers than us, while some have lower numbers than us."
The school district also said, "mandatory masking is not without a cost. We recognize that there are negative impacts to school-age children properly wearing a mask during the duration of the school day. The data analysis is obviously very complex during this pandemic."
The announcement comes as nearly 200 people were protesting outside of the school district's board meeting for different reasons on Thursday. While some support the district keeping masks optional, others see a mask mandate as the district's only way out of a rise in COVID cases.
"At this time, I do not believe it is appropriate to mandate either decision, which would remove the ability to make the decision for each family to make the best decision for them as a family," Superintendent Ragsdale said.
The district also announced starting Monday, Aug. 23, there will be changes in Cobb County Schools' quarantine process for those who have been exposed to COVID.
Previously, any student who had come into contact with a COVID positive student or employee, could return to school without quarantine. However, starting Monday, the student will have to quarantine for three days at home and then can return on the fourth day as long as they are asymptomatic, the district said.
Later this fall, the school district said Cobb families will have the option to apply for expanded openings in the Cobb Online Learning Academy and its Elementary Virtual Program that will open beginning in January.
Earlier Thursday, Cobb County Commissioner Lisa Cupid declared a COVID emergency in Cobb County.
Cupid said the declaration is to help the county respond to a surge in COVID cases, by allowing resources to be funneled to hospitals that have a critical need for equipment and supplies.