When school starts again next week, many students at staff at area public school districts will be required to mask up again.
Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District will return to enforcing face masks on its campus to prevent the spread of COVID-19, amid the surge of the omicron variant.
The district had abruptly lifted its mask mandate Dec. 13, about a week before Christmas break began. It announced this week that, due to a recent spike in cases across the state and based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Mississippi State Department of Health, the requirement will return while students and staff are inside school facilities, including buses.
“Initially, when we shifted to only masks recommended, it was after multiple weeks of cases reported below a 1-percent positivity rate,” SOCSD Public Information Officer Nicole Thomas said. “After monitoring daily totals from MSDH, the district felt it should require masks until we receive a complete comprehensive report on case numbers in the district.”
The district will continue to monitor rates of transmission and adjust mask procedures accordingly, Thomas said.
Lowndes County School District has not made any changes to its current mask protocols, LCSD Superintendent Sam Allison said.
The mask status for the district is on a school-by-school basis based on the number of positive cases at each school. If the number of positive cases over the previous two weeks is less than 3 percent of the student population, the school will only recommend masks. At any time if the number of positive cases rises above 3 percent of the student population for a two week period, masks will be required for two weeks and then reassessed.
Masks are required on school buses and not required outdoors.
Columbus Municipal School District, which has required masks indoors since school began in August, will continue to have its mask mandate in place and no protocols have wavered or changed, CMSD Public Information Officer Mary Pollitz said.
CMSD also has on-site testing for students that are exposed. Pollitz said the district is staying the course and continuing to put the safety of students in place.