ATLANTA — Atlanta Public Schools will implement a "universal mask wearing" policy in all of its school buildings when the new school year starts Aug. 5, the district announced Thursday.
In a statement, the school system cited the dangers of the Delta variant of the coronavirus and guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Just 18% of eligible students in the Atlanta school system are fully vaccinated and 58% of its employees have said they are either fully vaccinated or plan to be, officials said.
The school system noted that the pediatrics academy recommends that all students and staff wear masks - regardless of whether they've been vaccinated. It also mentioned the federal Centers for Disease Control in announcing the mask mandate.
"Given our low vaccination rates and increasing community spread, the CDC acknowledges that universal masking would be appropriate," the school system said in the statement.
Face coverings will be optional during outdoor activities, such as physical education classes and recess, the district said.
About 50,000 students attend Atlanta Public Schools.
Atlanta's policy is more stringent than those of some large suburban Atlanta school districts.
Cobb County, one of Georgia's largest school systems, will not require students or staff to wear masks on buses or indoors when their new school year begins Aug. 2. Nor will Marietta City Schools require masks, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Marietta's decision was based on data that shows that COVID transmission among students is low, Superintendent Grant Rivera told parents in an email.
Marietta City Schools had no confirmed cases of COVID-19 that were transmitted on a bus last school year or during the summer, Rivera said.
"As we consider each family's ability to determine what is best for their child in terms of personal comfort and learning dynamics, our goal is to strike the right balance between safety, science, teaching, and learning," he said.
Georgia's largest schools system — Gwinnett County — also will not require masks.