Tallapoosa County Schools superintendent Joe Windle is following the recommendation of 103 physicians from Birmingham and will make masks mandatory for all faculty and all students over the age of 7.

“These physicians are serving on the frontline and have a vested interest in patients and their own children they are sending off to school next month,” Windle said in a video. “As a group, they agree with us and with the American Academy of Pediatrics the goal should focus on children returning to school physically and safely.”

While children are less likely to spread the coronavirus and less likely to have severe symptoms, the illness is still a serious concern.

Face coverings will be mandatory for all workforce when inside the buildings and the school system will provide medical masks, reusable cloth masks or clear plastic shields to all members. Students age 7 and older must wear a mask when inside the facilities as well and parents are encouraged to purchase two or three reusable cloth masks for their children.

“From a medical standpoint, this group of doctors believe face coverings are the best chance for school to reopen and stay open,” Windle said. “Face coverings will reduce the number of people requiring quarantine.”

Based on recommendations from the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), students may return to school after 14 days of a positive coronavirus test or 14 days after the start of symptoms, as long as no medication is needed for three days.

Close-contact cases would also meet the 14-day quarantine criteria.

“We are researching further with the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and ADPH to review these recommendations and provide a clear course of action on a next draft of guidance,” Windle said. “Our top priority is and will be the safety of our workforce and students yet we know we have a responsibility to provide students an equitable and competitive education. The decisions we make today will impact the students we serve for life.”

Windle has expressed in the past and reiterated again face-to-face instruction by a certified teacher is the best form of learning for students.

“We are learning medical practices daily we believe will allow us to open schools in a safe, meaningful way,” Windle said.

Amy Passaretti is a staff writer with the Alexander City Outlook.