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Roughly 250 in Franklin County Schools receive mask exemption

Almost all exemptions filed were approved
Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 3:20 PM EDT
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ROCKY MOUNT, Va. (WDBJ) - Beginning this week, mask exemptions in the Franklin County School District for religious or medical reasons will require documentation.

“Our mission is keeping kids in school,” says Assistant Superintendent Sue Rogers.

Keeping students in the classroom is the motivation behind requiring documentation for mask exemptions in Franklin County schools. The documentation was due last week, with parents and students being notified of their exemption status by Monday of this week.

“With more students wearing masks, we should see a decrease in quarantining,” notes Superintendent Dr. Bernice Cobbs.

Without documentation at the beginning of the school year, more than 1,200 students and staff members in the roughly 6,500 member district had mask exemptions.

The school district received 250 mask exemption documents by last week’s deadline, when all but a handful were approved by doctors or for religious reasons. The district says those exemptions that were not approved were at the discretion of doctors, not the school district. Officials say most students who are exempt have other mitigation in place to protect themselves and their classmates from COVID.

“As a parent filled out and asked for a certain accommodation, they were granted that accommodation,” explains Rogers. “So if they said ‘we’ll use a desk shield’ or ‘we’ll use a face shield’, they were granted that. It was done on a case-by-case basis and the majority of our parents just wanted to be able to help.”

The district also says this doesn’t mean students will always be masked.

“A lot of parents were under the perception that kids could never take their mask off,” continues Rogers. “[Teachers] know they can’t wear it all day long, I can’t wear it all day long. So they plan mask breaks.”

Dr. Cobbs says, because of the contact tracing protocol, more students in masks means more students in class.

The school district says September 10, they had 600 students in quarantine. As of this Monday, they have 210.

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