MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County Schools announced Tuesday it will require all students and faculty to wear masks for the upcoming school year regardless of vaccination status.

In a press release, the school district said it is prioritizing health and safety as they prepare for the full return to in-person instruction, the District is updating its safety protocols.

SCS said reviewing the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics, Superintendent Ray shared updated COVID-19 protocols for the 2021-22 school year.

At look at CDC guidance for schools shows the agency is only recommending masks for those who haven’t been vaccinated. But the American Academy of Pediatrics continues to advise universal mask-wearing in schools since Covid vaccines haven’t been approved for children under the age of 12.

“When we said that it’s regardless of your vaccination status, we’re not gonna card people at the door and ask them whether or not they’re vaccinated or unvaccinated. The safest approach is to have everyone,” said SCS spokesperson Jerica Phillips.

SCS is one of only a handful of Memphis area districts that have reached a decision about mask wearing for the upcoming semester. The Lakeland and Millington school districts confirmed last week that masks would be optional at their campuses, but other districts said they were still formulating a policy.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Manoj Jain applauded SCS for its decision and urged municipal and private schools to follow suit.

“I think it’s a great idea,” he said.

“The benefit of wearing a mask even if you are vaccinated is that right now the transmission of the Delta variant is very high in our community. And people who have been vaccinated, they can get the virus.”

The district’s policy applies while students and staff are indoors or on school buses. It will remain in place until further notice.

The semester starts August 9.