Mask-less by May

Siri Hedreen / The Outlook

Alexander City Schools will continue to require masks through May 1. 

Alexander City Schools will continue to require masks on buses and in school buildings until May 1, school superintendent Dr. Keith Lankford announced Thursday.

Starting Saturday, Alex City Schools will begin its "phasing out approach," in which social distancing requirements will be shortened from six feet to three (per CDC recommendation) and masks will be optional during outdoor activities, Lankford said. While face coverings are still required indoors, indoor activity capacity will increase to 75% and outdoor activity capacity to 100%.

The new policy comes one day after Gov. Kay Ivey confirmed her earlier promise not to renew the statewide mask mandate set to expire Friday, April 9 at 5 p.m. However, Ivey praised the businesses and organizations that have announced they'd continue their mask policies, saying it is "their prerogative and we should respect that."

Lankford first told school board members he intended to extend Alex City Schools' indoor mask policy last month in anticipation of Ivey's lifting of the statewide mask order, adding that he hoped the school district to be "mask-less by May."

On Thursday, Lankford said he'd send another memo by May 1 updating students and parents on the final phase of COVID-19 guidelines.

"While the direction at present is favorably leaning towards a return to normal, we have to remain aware that this process is still evolving and the decisions made today are based on current data," he said. "If things change, we will change them to maintain a safe educational environment for the students, staff and families."

Last week, Tallapoosa County Schools superintendent Ray Porter sent a letter outlining similar guidelines, but without an end date.

"Starting Monday, April 12, students participating in outdoor physical education will be allowed to remove their masks during that class," Porter said. "Students outside of our buildings on break, at lunch, or participating in outside class activities will be allowed to remove their masks, while continuing to social distance."

According to its COVID-19 dashboard, Alex City Schools currently has only one COVID-19 case out of 2,420 students and 304 staff members, a student at Jim Pearson Elementary. Seven other Jim Pearson students are currently in quarantine.

Tallapoosa County Schools currently has zero COVID-19 cases and six students in quarantine due to exposure from a family member.