Franklin Parish public schools will opt out of a mask mandate set in place by an Aug. 3 executive order by Gov. John Bel Edwards.

John Gullatt, school superintendent, announced the decision during a School Board agenda meeting Tuesday evening.

On Tuesday (Oct. 26), Edwards ended Louisiana’s statewide indoor mask mandate and left K-12 schools an option of keeping the mandate.

Edwards cited a sustained reduction in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations as the reason for lifting his mask requirement.

“I strongly recommend to continue wearing a mask, but it is no longer a mandate,” Gullatt said. “If you want to send your child to school wearing a mask feel free to do so. As far as busses go, you still have to wear a mask on the bus to the school and on the bus going home from school. Mass transit is still under the mask mandate.”

Masks still will be mandated by federal regulation, including on mass transit and in health care facilities. Local governments and private businesses also may choose to continue requiring masks, Edwards said.

The updated order extends to K-12 schools unless school districts continue implementing existing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quarantine guidance, which Edwards offered as a way to “opt out.”

CDC guidance for K-12 settings requires asymptomatic children who may have been within six feet of someone infected with COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes in a 24-hour period to quarantine for 14 days after exposure.

The two-week period may be shortened in certain circumstances, such as when a child tests negative five to seven days after exposure.

“Today, I am cautiously optimistic and very relieved that the worst of this fourth surge of COVID is clearly behind us, which is a direct result of the people of Louisiana who stepped up to the plate when we needed them to and put their masks back on, got vaccinated, and took extra precautions to stay safe,” Edwards said. "That’s why we are able to lift the statewide mask mandate.”

In the agenda meeting, School Board President Richard Kelly explained the role of school system’s governing body.

“It’s not the school district responsibility to litigate health issues but it is the school district’s responsibility to ensure the safety of the children,” said School Board President Richard Kelly

Next scheduled School Board meeting will be Nov. 4 at 5 p.m.

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