Two-week mask mandate at CMS, EES due to increase in COVID-19 cases

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(Cullman Tribune file photo)

CULLMAN, Ala. – With positive COVID-19 cases among students continuing to increase in Cullman City Schools, a temporary two-week mask mandate is now needed at Cullman Middle School and East Elementary School to slow the spread. Per protocol, if students are properly wearing a mask they will not be asked to stay home and quarantine.

Both Cullman Middle School and East Elementary School have seen the number of students absent due to testing positive for COVID-19 increase to above 5 percent — and both schools are reporting close to 20 % of students absent due to quarantining as exposures and close contacts. A mask or facial covering mandate for students, employees and visitors on those campuses will be required from Monday, August 30 until the end of the school day on Sept. 10. The mandate only applies at Cullman Middle School and East Elementary School.

“Before the start of school, we surveyed parents and employees to gauge their interest in a mask mandate at Cullman City Schools, and the majority were not in favor of a mandate at that time,” Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff said. “So we started school without a mask requirement, because we respect that right to choose. But the cases of COVID-19 at our schools have steadily increased, and we’ve reached the point where a mask mandate is the only option outside of temporarily shutting down these two campuses and shifting to virtual learning there for two weeks — and nobody wins when we have to shut down schools, so this is a way to target the hot spots we’re seeing. Because if students are wearing a mask, they will not be sent home and asked to quarantine for exposure.”

East Elementary School has a rate of 5.59 % of students absent due to testing positive for COVID-19 and Cullman Middle School has a rate of 5.08 % of students absent due to testing positive for COVID-19. For the sake of additional reference: Cullman High School has a rate of 3.35 % of students absent due to testing positive for COVID-19, West Elementary School has a rate of 2.88 % of students absent due to testing positive for COVID-19 and Cullman City Primary School has a rate of 1.76 % of students absent due to testing positive for COVID-19.

System-wide, a total of 3.71 % of students are absent due to testing positive for COVID-19, and system-wide absences specifically due to positive cases and close contact quarantining are just above 12 % average at all schools.

During this two-week mandate at Cullman Middle School and East Elementary School, masks/facial covering will be mandatory while indoors on these two campuses. The exceptions to this mandate are as follows: individuals with a medical condition, when eating or drinking, when confirming identity and/or when exercising or engaged in an athletic/extracurricular school activity where social distancing cannot be maintained.

“While we respect the choice of parents in regards to masks, these preventative steps are necessary to keep schools open, keep students in school and slow the spread of COVID-19,” Kallhoff said. “We appreciate everyone’s support and cooperation as we navigate through this school year.”

The quarantine protocol notes students who are a close contact to someone with a positive case of COVID-19 will not need to quarantine if they have no symptoms and are vaccinated, have no symptoms and tested positive in the prior three months or have no symptoms and were correctly wearing a mask.