School superintendent releases letter explaining COVID decisions

Published 3:06 pm Thursday, August 19, 2021

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By JOYANNA LOVE/ Managing Editor

Chilton County Schools Superintendent Jason Griffin released a statement Aug. 19 to the community in light of COVID isolations due to possible exposure reaching over 10% at some schools.

“Our goal is to provide in-person instruction in a healthy environment as we deal with the ongoing health crisis,” Griffin said. “We began the school year hopeful we would be able to allow masks to be optional in our schools and that the COVID positives and those exposed would be limited. However, within the last few days, our COVID infections and those exposed and required to be isolated have risen steadily.”

As a part of the school system’s plan for returning to school, it was stated that “individual schools may be subject to a mask mandate if isolation and COVID positive cases reach a level that the Superintendent deems necessary.” Griffin has used 10% of the number of those in the schools as his threshold for requiring masks, after conversation with school nurses and administrators.

“That percentage has been reached at Chilton County High, Clanton Middle, Jemison Elementary, Jemison Intermediate and Jemison Middle,” Griffin said. “I fully expect other schools to reach that percentage soon. I did not want to have to require masks, and there are lots of opinions and scientific evidence as to their effectiveness, but the Center for Disease Control and Alabama Department of Public Health recommend the use of masks in all K-12 schools, including Pre-K, for students and employees to mitigate the virus for ages 2 and older. We have other schools who have maintained levels below 5% and so what are they doing to control it?”

He said all of the schools are using air filtration systems, hand sanitizer and social distancing when possible.

“So, I don’t know what the difference is,” Griffin said. “I do know that I have an obligation to protect our students, employees and community from the spread of the virus and we are making decisions that we feel are best. My primary goal is to keep everyone safe … there will always be those that disagree, and I respect that. I wish there were right and wrong answers, but there are not, so we will do what we feel is best, and I would continue to encourage you to make the decision that is best for your family based on our health guidelines that are subject to change based on the crisis and recommendations or requirements from CDC and ADPH.”

He said the school system is monitoring the situation.

“I do not know when the mask mandates may be lifted, because I don’t want to be making constant changes, so we will monitor as we progress and make decisions that hopefully will allow us to provide in-person education for our students,” Griffin said.

He emphasized that by requiring masks at select schools, “individuals who are in close contact with a positive case will not have to isolate unless they show symptoms, so it should keep our students and employees in the building for learning based on CDC guidelines. I ask for the community to support us even if you disagree and help us to keep our students in school!”

He thanked everyone for their patience during this time, “and I pray that this craziness ends soon.”

School system COVID-19 numbers are unavailable from the state at this time. According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, the school system tracker on COVID-19 cases will be available again starting in mid-September.