Superintendent defends Marietta school district's mask mandate

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Aug. 27—In an email sent Friday to staff and parents, Marietta City Schools Superintendent Grant Rivera defended the district's earlier decision this month to re-implement a mask mandate.

"I recognize, given all the polarization, we will never all agree on how best to approach student learning and school safety during a pandemic," Rivera wrote, but said his email was an attempt to respond to the concerns his office has received.

Rivera said the move came largely in response to identifying 16 COVID-19 school-linked cases in schools during a three-day period, after identifying just one such case during the first nine days of school. That spike, coupled with the drastically rising case numbers in Cobb County at-large, was what pushed the Marietta district on the decision.

The district hopes to lift that mandate "as soon as it is safe to do such." Rivera said he and staff are looking at four data points to make that call: Cobb's 14-day positive case rate; the overall positivity rate in Cobb; the number of cases within the district; and the degree of school-based transmission.

"While some in the community may disagree with the temporary mask mandate, it is important to understand that the mask mandate will allow more students to avoid quarantine and remain in our classrooms," Rivera wrote.

That's because the circle of "close contacts" is considered to be much wider when a student is unmasked.

"During the week prior to the mask mandate, 983 students were identified as close contacts from 51 positive cases," Rivera said. "This week, that number decreased to 308 students from 58 positive cases."

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