August 10, 2020
Our staff has worked to develop the safest ways to provide a rigorous educational experience which includes face-to-face instruction, hybrid schedules, virtual options, and programs that meet the social-emotional needs of our students. GMSD is proud of the work we have completed towards meeting recommendations provided by the TN Department of Health, Le Bonheur Task Force, Shelby County Health Department, CDC, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The latest guidance from the Tennessee Department of Health, the Shelby County COVID-19 Task Force, and Governor Bill Lee’s Ordinance No. 55
on July 31, 2020, recommend that masks should be worn at all times in school buildings, so we are updating our plan to reflect that new guidance.
This is not a dramatic departure from our current plan. Students were already required to wear a mask or facial covering during arrival, dismissal, and during times that social distancing would be difficult (such as class transitions and hand washing or restroom breaks). Parents were asked to provide a mask or facial covering for their students. Students were also going to be strongly encouraged to wear their facial coverings at all times in the classroom. Our goal was for students and staff to wear facial coverings as frequently as possible. Even though we are transitioning to requiring masks, the exceptions and reasons why we originally chose a strong recommendation are still in place. According to the Tennessee Health Department:
- Unless a student has trouble breathing or is unable to remove a cloth face-covering without assistance, all middle school and high school students should always wear a cloth face covering while in the school building. Middle and high school students may remove their cloth face covering when outdoors so long as social distancing can be maintained.
- Unless a student has trouble breathing or is unable to remove a cloth face-covering without assistance or is sleeping, all elementary students should wear a cloth face covering while in the school building.
- Elementary students may remove their cloth face covering when outdoors.
- Students who continuously play with, suck on or chew their face covering should be excused from wearing one, as should students who will not tolerate a face covering.
- Preschool children under age 2 years should not wear cloth face coverings.
- Individuals should not wear masks while eating or drinking. Lunchtime should be restructured to allow children to eat lunch in their classrooms or outdoor spaces, rather than the cafeteria.
- People who are deaf or hard of hearing—or those who care for or interact with a person who is hearing impaired—may be unable to wear cloth face coverings if they rely on lipreading to communicate. In this situation, consider using a clear face covering. If a clear face covering isn’t available, consider whether you can use written communication, use closed captioning, or decrease background noise to make communication possible while wearing a cloth face covering that blocks your lips.
- Some students, such as those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental health conditions, or other sensory sensitivities, may have challenges wearing a cloth face covering. They should consult with their healthcare provider for advice about wearing cloth face coverings.
Principals are granted authority to waive the mask requirement for legitimate educational, safety, or health-related reasons for students, staff, and visitors on campus. Teachers will also have the ability to provide mask breaks when students are socially distanced, and staff will have the ability to wear face shields when providing phonics lessons, speech, or other therapies.