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Kemp's new order bans school districts from requiring students, staff to wear masks

"Georgians deserve to fully return to normal," Kemp said in a statement.

ATLANTA — Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has signed an executive order saying schools and school districts cannot require workers or students to wear a face covering while on their campuses.

The latest order also eliminates rules for restaurants, bars, conventions, childcare facilities, live performance venues, and other organizations. This is effective May 31 through June 15, 2021.

Previous executive orders eliminated regulations for camps and sporting events, according to a release. 

Other limited guidelines remain for long-term care facilities, and schools.

"As hospitalizations, cases, deaths, and percent positive tests all continue to decline - and with vaccinations on the rise - Georgians deserve to fully return to normal," Kemp said in a statement. "With safe and effective vaccines widely available and the public well-aware of all COVID-19 mitigation measures, mandates from state and local governments are no longer needed."

READ | Gov. Kemp's full executive order

The changes announced in the order don't come as a surprise.

"The time for mandates is over," Kemp told an interviewer on Fox News this week.

Friday morning before the governor announced the order, 11Alive reached out to some of the school districts in the metro Atlanta area about the possibility that they would be prevented from issuing mask mandates in the near future.

Below is a list of what they said.

Atlanta Public Schools

"Atlanta Public Schools (APS) continues to implement our comprehensive, multi-layered COVID-19 health strategy in our schools and buildings, which includes surveillance testing, temperature checks, the wearing of masks, and encouraging student and staff vaccinations. We will continue to assess our strategy as health guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Georgia Department of Public Health, and the Fulton County Board of Health evolves."

Cherokee County Schools

At the beginning of the school year, the Cherokee County School District required masks for employees when social distancing wasn't possible, but they dropped the mandate for fully vaccinated workers following the latest guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

There were also mask-wearing rules in place for students attending some activities. 

"We will end the mandate for students doing specific activities in specific classes for next school year in accordance with the Governor’s order," the district said in a statement. 

"For both employees and students, we follow DPH requirements for mandated precautionary quarantines due to close contact including the adjustment that allows early return from quarantine as long as specific steps are followed, one of which is mandated mask usage. We continue to require masks for early return in accordance with DPH rules. Should DPH adjust its rules in light of the Governor’s order, then we would follow the adjusted rules," the statement added.

Clayton County Public Schools

"Clayton County Public Schools will adhere to whatever the law requires as we plan for a wonderful 2021-2022 school year of students learning in our schools. The focus of the district is solely on ensuring our students, employees, and community remain safe. We will ensure this safety within the parameters of what is allowable and best for our students, employees, and community."

Cobb County Schools

A Cobb County School District spokesperson said they were looking forward to receiving further detail directly from the governor’s office. 

"As indicated by Superintendent Ragsdale weeks ago, we expect to be mask optional for the 2021-2022 school year," the spokesperson said.

DeKalb County School District

DeKalb County School said its mask policy is under review. 

"DCSD will continue to follow recommended guidelines from the CDC. To date, the CDC recommends schools continue to use the current COVID-19 strategies for the 2020-2021 school year.”

Gwinnett County Public Schools

Gwinnett Schools said masks were currently required in their facilities. However, they added that once the order is issued they would review it and determine how to best implement the direction provided.

Henry County Schools

Officials with Henry County Schools said they currently have a mask mandate for inside buildings but not for outdoor spaces on their campuses. However, they have plans to make masks optional in the upcoming school year.

"The outdoor requirement for masks was lifted early in May. We also increased capacity for indoor events at the same time. The continued positive trend in local health data, along with our continued mitigation efforts allowed our district to advance plans to make the upcoming 2021-2022 school year a mask-optional year for all employees, students, and visitors to our buildings and campuses."

The district said it would comply with whatever rules are listed in the new order.