By Wil Crews

When Gov. Kay Ivey ended the statewide mask mandate on April 9, Alabama schools were faced with a difficult decision: drop the mask mandate to coincide with Ivey’s new “Safer Apart” order, or continue with the current guidelines, requiring masks, that have gotten them through nearly all of the 2020-21 school year thus far. 

The Observer reached out to Opelika City Schools Superintendent Mark Neighbors and Lee County Schools Superintendent Mac McCoy to see how they plan to finish out the school year.

“We have consulted with local physicians and even though the COVID situation is improving, we believe it is important to finish the year with our current guidelines,” said Neighbors. “Thanks to the cooperation of our staff, students and families, we have kept our COVID-19 numbers low within the schools and we feel that it is important to continue wearing face coverings and social distancing in order to maintain those low numbers through the end of May.” 

In contrast, McCoy said Lee County Schools (Smiths Station, Beauregard, Beulah and Loachapoka) will only “strongly encourage” students to wear masks for the remainder of the school year.

“Lee County Schools will reinstate the original ‘Back to School / Road to Recovery’ plan and strongly encourage individuals to wear a mask or other facial covering. We will not mandate masks be worn, nor will we discipline students or adults for not wearing a mask. As long as supplies last, we can provide masks to those who want one.”