COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – Muscogee County Pre-K through second grade students are on their second day of school, but third grade through 12th grade are heading back to the classroom for the first time this school year.

Following the rise in COVID-19 cases across the Peach State and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, American Academy of Pediatricians and the school districts own medical board, Superintendent of Education for Muscogee County Schools Dr. David Lewis said it was necessary to reinstate a mask mandate.

“We have a medical panel comprised of pediatricians, workmen’s comp doctors, epidemiologists, and members of our health department all advised us that we really needed to go to the universal masking to start the school year,” said Dr. Lewis. “And it’s our hope that as cases come down we’ll be able to go back to an optional as soon as possible.”

While Dr. Lewis is hopeful they can return to unmasked learning sooner rather than later, he said how the community responds to the rise in cases will determine this.

This year the district will not be offering a virtual learning option unless a student is medically fragile or has psychiatric needs.

“We know in person learning is the desired way to deliver instruction and is the most important way to deliver instruction,” said Dr. Lewis. “So with that in mind we are not offering a virtual option at this point unless there is a medically fragile or psychiatric need for children they can apply to our homebound services.”