With masks optional in most schools, should your student wear one? A pediatrician weighs in

As students across north Georgia head back to class, pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu of Children's Medical Group in Decatur says her practice is busy.

"I'm seeing a ton of COVID right now," Dr. Shu says.

So, it is not surprising the one thing Dr. Shu says she is getting asked about most right now is masks.

Many school districts do not require masks, although some are strongly recommending them.

Clayton County students and staff will start the year masked.

And, in Gwinnett County, school staff are required to wear masks, but students are not.

Shu says transitioning back to facial coverings can be a little tricky.

"A lot of their kids have gotten used to not masking over the summer," Dr. Shu says. "They've spent a lot of time outside, or maybe the schools aren't requiring masking. It would not hurt to wear a mask. So, that's something definitely to talk to your children about. My child will probably end up wearing a mask at school, and she may be one of the few. But, I don't see a downside to wearing a mask."

If your student plays sports, Shu says, he or she will likely need a sports physical.

And for students 5 and older, she recommends getting COVID-19 booster shot, if they are eligible.

The COVID-19 vaccine is not required in Georgia, but other vaccines are.

"Make sure you're up-to-date on vaccines, because, during the pandemic, a lot of kids did skip their well-visits and might have gotten behind on their shots and not have known it," Dr. Shu says. "So, just double check with your pediatrician and make sure your child is up-to-date on everything."

Finally, Dr. Shu says, the highly-contagious BA.5 Omicron variant could make for a rocky start to the school year.

So, be prepared for some possible bumps in the road.

"I think parents should just expect there will be an increase in COVID-19, just because people are gathering in groups more so that the summer," she says. "Just be on the lookout that these variants can change and recommendations can change."