Vestavia Hills City Schools has reverted to its optional mask policy for staff, visitors and students, only three weeks after enacting a mask mandate that parents and community members pressured the school district into implementing.
In a statement made Friday, Superintendent Todd Freeman noted “very encouraging trend[s] of decreases in COVID-19 cases” in Vestavia Hills schools, Jefferson County and the surrounding areas as the reason for the reversal.
According to the school system’s COVID-19 dashboard, there were 26 positive cases among students systemwide, as of Sept. 17, a substantial decrease from the 48 positive cases reported the previous week.
“The peak in positive cases in Jefferson County during this current wave of COVID-19 took place the week of August 23. Positives and close contacts among VHCS students also peaked that same week,” Freeman said in a statement Monday. “Since then, our number of positives have decreased in a similar manner as the county where there has been no mask mandate. These patterns are also similar to previous waves we experienced last school year when there was a statewide mask mandate.”
Freeman also mentioned that with the mask mandate in place, there were “several times each day when masks were not required,” such as during band class, PE and athletic competitions, practices, and games, and while transitioning between buildings.
“Our goal continues to be to have students focused on learning in a safe and nurturing environment,” Freeman said. “The most important part of our health and wellness plan is for staff and students to stay at home when they are sick.”
In late August, a group of over 700 Vestavia residents, many of them doctors and medical researchers with children in the school system, demanded Vestavia schools implement a mask mandate, as was recommended in the “Back to School Guidance 2021-2022” released by the Alabama Department of Public Health.
With this reversal, Vestavia will return back to being one of the few school districts in the surrounding area that has not mandated universal masking.