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New mask mandate forces change for parish schools

Face coverings required for students 5 and up
Wednesday, August 4, 2021
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After planning not to require masks for students and employees this fall, the Lincoln Parish School District will have to change its tune following Gov. John Bel Edwards’ new mask mandate that goes into effect today.

“There’s not a lot of choice in that for us,” Superintendent Ricky Durrett said soon after Monday’s announcement from the governor. “We did it last year, and we know we can do it again.”

In effect today through Sept. 1, the new mandate was made in response to a surge of Delta variant cases of COVID-19 across the state. Louisiana leads the nation in new cases per capita. The order requires all residents age 5 or older to wear a face covering over the nose and mouth when inside any building that isn’t a private residence, with a handful of circumstances that count as exceptions.

Last school year Lincoln Parish required masks down to third grade, so the new mandate extends to younger children this time.

“Kindergarten and up will be required (to wear masks),” Durrett said. “We certainly encourage parents to start practicing with them at home. We’ll work with them and do what we can to follow the governor’s order.”

The district had previously planned to recommend, but not require, face coverings for grades 3-12.

Exceptions for the mandate include individuals with a medical condition that prevents mask wearing, athletes participating in athletic events, anyone eating or drinking, and individuals who would be able to maintain strict 6-foot social distancing at all times while out of the home.

While mandating masks wasn’t what parish schools originally planned to do, Durrett said the focus is still the same.

“Whatever we have to do to keep them safe with in-person learning is the goal,” he said. “We want to keep kids safe and have school every day.”