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School masks remain optional for students, staff, visitors
Effingham County School District

 RINCON — Dr. Yancy Ford hoped that COVID-19 would be in the Effingham County School District’s rearview mirror when school starts Thursday. Unfortunately, the virus and its many challenges remain front and center. 

COVID-19 was subsiding at the end of the 2020-21 in May but has been trending in a negative direction recently.

“We will continue to monitor the impact that (COVID-19) is having on our schools and our community,” Ford said July 29. 

According to the CDC, the number of cases in Georgia has increased more than 200 percent in the last 14 days.

“We are expecting some guidance to come out from the Department of Public Health soon,” Ford said. “A lot of what we do will be the same as last year.”

Masks will be optional for students, staff and visitors. Schools will continue to provide masks to individuals who request them.

In 2020-21, masks were optional for students but teachers, staff and visitors were mandated to cover their faces for most of the year.

Ford said disinfectant will continue to be sprayed regularly in the district’s buses, classrooms, lockerrooms, etc. EcoVasive Infectious Control started the task Friday.

“When they come in, EcoVasive sprays an electrostatic film, usually from as high as someone can reach on a wall and down,” Ford said. “They spray everything and it’s supposed to be good for 90 days. We will have them come in three times during the year.

“We did this last year as well and we felt like it helped.”

The district didn’t cancel a single day of school in 2020-21 because of the virus.

“Even when COVID-19 disappears, we feel like we will continue to (spray disinfectant and encourage handwashing) because it is just healthy hygiene,” Ford said.

The district has two Clorox 360 machines that are effective in thwarting staph and COVID-19. Buddy Holder of the district’s Risk Management Department will treat “hot spots”— areas where an infected student is known to have been.

“You can reenter the classroom about 10 or 15 minutes after he sprays it,” Ford said. “That’s just to let it dry.”

Sani-10 is the product of choice on buses. It will also be used in classrooms.

“The drivers will spray down their buses at the beginning of every route and the end of every route,” Ford said. “They will also let at least two windows down — even on buses with air conditioning — about four inches just to keep good air flow. A lot of them will keep their emergency hatch open so that air can flow through the bus.”

In addition, each school has a pallet of individual wipes on hand. The wipes were obtained through GEMA and a partnership with the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office and Manna House Ministries.

“We are going to socially distance as practicably as possible,” the superintendent added. “In some cases, we are not going to be able to do it. When I sent my (newsletter) out to parents last week, that was the message that I told them.

“We will continue to do some of the things that we learned last year.”

Ford said no changes have been issued by the GHSA that would impact sports activities. Last year, the start of football season was postponed several weeks because of COVID-19 concerns.