Georgia schools COVID response: Which districts have mask mandates, online classes amid omicron variant surge

As COVID-19 cases continue to spike due to the omicron variant, many school districts across Georgia are re-evaluating their policies to keep children safe.


Some are reinstating mask mandates and others are considering going back to virtual learning for the start of the semester.

Here is a look at some of those districts and their decisions:

Atlanta Public Schools

Atlanta Public Schools announced it is beginning the semester on Tuesday with virtual learning after reporting a surge in COVID-19 cases before its winter break

Classes will continue online through Friday. The district plans to return to in-person instruction on Jan. 10.

APS released a statement that read, in part: 

"Given the substantial increase in the community transmission rate of COVID-19 for Fulton and Dekalb counties, and the need to further assess the positivity rate of employees; APS will begin second semester virtually. This will allow students and staff to test, complete needed isolation and quarantine periods in alignment with updated Department of Public Health and CDC guidance and participate in vaccination opportunities. We will continue to monitor data and consult with public health officials as we prepare to resume in-person learning after this time."

APS employees were instructed to report to work on Monday for testing unless they feel sick.

The school district recommends students and staff follow protection and prevention guidelines from the World Health Organization. 

APS will also offer surveillance testing for students and district employees at nine cluster sites Thursday and Friday from noon to 5 p.m. This will aid in contract tracing and the safe reopening of schools. Surveillance testing during this two-day period is voluntary for employees and students. Learn more by clicking here.

Clayton County School District

The district will start the next semester virtually. Students will learn from home starting Wednesday to Friday. Teachers will work remotely from Monday to Friday. In-person learning will resume Jan 10.

Cobb County School District

Face coverings are strongly encouraged but optional for students and staff Cobb County School District.

Any student or staff member who tests positive for COVID-19 is required to isolate. 

DeKalb County School District

Students will begin the new semester virtually on Wednesday through Friday. For students who did not bring devices home in advance of winter break, parents and guardians will be permitted to pick up learning devices for students on Monday and Tuesday. Parents will need to check with the school for distribution times. Breakfast and lunch can be picked up curbside January 5-7.

Most employees will report Monday as usual. Students will return to face-to-face instruction on January 10.

The mask policy for DeKalb County Schools will remain in place when the new semester starts. The district will resume its COVID-19 testing and vaccination clinics in the New Year.

Douglas County School System

Students in Douglas County will participate in in-person learning beginning Jan. 5 with masks required for schools with positive COVID-19 cases at a rate of 5% or more and recommended for schools with rates between 2% and 5%.  

Superintendent Trent North issued a statement updating the school district's guidance of COVID-19 prevention:

"Dear Parents and Community Members,

"The new year has arrived with COVID-19 continuing to be a challenge in our community. According to Cobb and Douglas Public Health (CDPH), there has been an increase in positive cases in our Douglas County community. Therefore, in consultation with CDPH, the DCSS Board of Education and DCSS will implement the following for the start of the second semester.The district will begin face to face for all staff on Tuesday, January 4, 2022, with face coverings strongly recommended in all buildings. Face-to-face instruction for all students will begin on Wednesday, January 5, 2022. Utilizing the Learning by Design model as published here, face coverings will be required for schools with positive COVID-19 cases at a rate of 5% or more (high spread level). Schools with positive COVID-19 cases at a rate of 2 - 4.9% (moderate spread level) will continue with face coverings recommended. Please note that masks will still be required for all students and adults riding our school buses, due to federal regulations. We know that COVID-19 is an ever-changing situation, one that we cannot predict. We will continue to communicate COVID-19 case percentages by school here. When a school site reaches high spread, parents will be notified prior to the next school day that face coverings will be required. Once the face -overing requirement is in place, it will be for a minimum 14-day period. This period may be extended if the school's positive case rate does not fall below 5%."  

"The goal of the updated Learning by Design plan is safety, mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and to keep schools open so that learning can continue in person. Our expectation is that parents and our community are partnering with us to follow the same guidelines when away from schools. Therefore, please encourage your child(ren) to wear their masks properly and follow DCSS guidelines and protocols designed to keep them safe." 

"Together, we shape the future!"

Forsyth County Schools

Forsyth County Schools said it will have virtual learning days for all students on Jan. 6 and Jan. 7 to assess our ability to staff schools and transport students. The district is planning for face-to-face instruction on Jan. 10, with a final decision to be announced by Jan. 7. 

Staff members are instructed to report to school and staff who test positive COVID or have shown symptoms since Dec. 31 are instructed to contact their school or supervisor by Jan. 5.

The district will operate under the same COVID-19 policies instituted in August when in-person learning resumes. 

Fulton County Schools

School officials said the new semester will begin with remote learning for all students on Tuesday until Friday. Face-to-face instruction will return on the following Monday. Masks will be required at all school facilities through Jan. 21. Staff will report remotely on Monday and Tuesday but will be in-person beginning Wednesday.

Griffin-Spalding Schools

Starting Jan 3, 2022, everyone will be required to wear a mask inside all Griffin-Spalding County Schools facilities.

Gwinnett County Public Schools

Gwinnett County Public Schools will implement updated mask guidance when the second semester starts on Jan. 4. The guidance is based on the levels of transmission in specific areas of the county.

Masks will be required in areas with "substantial" or "high" transmission.

GCPS will transition to strongly recommending masks, but not requiring them, in all of its facilities when an area reaches "moderate" levels of transmission for two week. Masks are required on buses.

Rome City Schools

Rome City Schools will require masks for all faculty, staff and students upon return on Jan. 3 for one week. The district will evaluate if masks are needed in the following weeks.

Troup County School System

Schools in Troup County intend to return to class on Jan. 4 with in-person learning with face-coverings strongly encouraged. 

Brian T. Shumate, Superintendent of Schools, said schools with a positivity rate higher than 1% will have mask mandates. The mask ordinance could go district-wide if a "critical mass" of schools exceeds 1%.

A high number of COVID cases at any one school would result in virtual learning.

Shumate said 13 transportation employees are COVID-positive or in quarantine, meaning bus routes could be combined and pick-up and drop-off times could be delayed.