Chamblee Unmasked: DeKalb Lifts School Mask Mandate

Two students passionately fight over the controversial issue of masks in school.

Photo courtesy of Emmy Williams

Two students passionately fight over the controversial issue of masks in school.

Toby Russell and Keegan Brooks

Since March 2, face masks have no longer been required in schools in the DeKalb County School District.
“Based on available information at this time, the DeKalb County School District (DCSD) will be lifting the mandatory mask requirement for all staff and students indoors and on buses. Effective March 2nd, mask-wearing will be strongly encouraged for all staff, students, and visitors,” wrote DCSD superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris.
Other metro Atlanta school districts, such as Gwinnett County Public Schools and Cobb County Public Schools, have already implemented optional mask-wearing policies, with Atlanta Public Schools also lifting its mandatory mask requirement on March 2.
This change comes after the CDC updated its guidelines regarding various different community COVID-19 levels. The organization only recommends that communities with high levels of COVID-19 have an indoor mask mandate in schools and other indoor community settings. DeKalb is a low-risk county, meaning that the CDC does not recommend more than testing and up-to-date vaccination for the average member of the public.

Student Opinions

Some students support the CDC-backed decision by the county, trusting the agency to make the right decision.
“I know CDC changed their guidelines […] so I feel more comfortable because of that,” said Spencer Yelk Woodruff (‘24).
The dip in cases has also aroused approval among some in the student population.
“I think it’s fine [since] the numbers are going down […] but you never know some person could have it but at this point it’s pretty low-risk,” said Quirk.

Mask mandate signs used to dot the school in many places. Now, they are no more. (Photo courtesy of Keegan Brooks)

Others are simply just happy to be done with the mandate.
“It’s about time [to] go on without masks at school,” said David Welsh (‘23).
Many believe that the move comes too soon.
“I think that this is […] not a good idea because the reason that there is low transmission right now is because of how good we’ve been doing about keeping these mask mandates. […] By lifting them now, I feel like we are putting ourselves in a bad position,” said Francesca Mariano (‘22).
Masks have also helped with flu and cold cases, encouraging some to continue wearing them.
“I think it’s a little too early. It also helps with flu and cold. I haven’t had a cold since COVID started, and it’s really nice,” said Evelyn Ross (‘23).
Despite the district’s decision, a solid majority of students plan to continue wearing masks. Many worry for immunocompromised family members.
“I personally am probably going to wear one because I have two grandparents at home, […] wearing a mask is a good idea in general for a lot of viruses,” said freshman Garrett Moore (‘25).
Other students plan to wear face masks only in specific scenarios.
“I’m happy that the mandate has been lifted because it still allows people to wear masks,” said senior Benjamin Swahn (‘22). “I’m still going to wear a mask in certain periods and changing hallways. But if I have a class of only 10 people I’m probably not going to, especially in the weight room.”
Some will simply carry on with how the majority acts.
“I’ll probably see how many people are taking off their mask or how many people aren’t,” said Julian Quirk (‘25).
Ultimately, students looking to make the best choice for their own and others’ safety will have to wait and see how the lifting of the mask mandate affects COVID numbers going forward.
“I don’t know how to feel about it,” said Sally Li (’23). “I feel like there are certain situations where you can lift it, but I feel like kids at our school, they don’t know when that time is.”