Jake Arthur / The Outlook

Alexander City Schools is rolling back its mask indoor mask requirement but still "highly encourages" face coverings, the school system announced Friday.

According to a post on Facebook, "After reviewing our recent data as it pertains to COVID-19 in our school system our leadership has voted to move from 'Masks Required' on our campuses to 'Masks Highly Encouraged.' We will continue to monitor cases among staff and students."

The downgraded mask policy is subject to chance should COVID-19 cases within the school system rise.

As of Friday, five Alex City Schools students and one staff member were positive for COVID-19, down from a high of 80 students and employees on Sept. 3. So far, one campus — Jim Pearson Elementary School — has had to shut down to stop the spread of COVID-19, in the second week of the new school year. Students spent a week in virtual learning.

Meanwhile, Tallapoosa County Schools, which saw fewer COVID-19 cases in the beginning of the semester, reported 40 cases to Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) this past week. Last weekend, Reeltown Elementary School told parents the school would going remote through Tuesday, Oct. 12 due to the number of employees in isolation and quarantine. Dadeville elementary and high schools also temporarily shut down last month to a COVID-related staffing shortage that left the schools unable to operate.

Alex City Schools operated most of last year with a mask mandate in place, reinstating it in August as COVID-19 cases rose due to the combined low vaccination rate in Alabama and the more contagious Delta variant.

Tallapoosa County Schools still has its mask requirement after renewing it Sept. 13.

As of Thursday, 41.5% of Tallapoosa County residents are fully vaccinated according to ADPH.

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