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Masked teachers at East Baton Rouge Schools teachers professional development training classes held at Liberty High School, Tuesday, August 3, 2021.

If the declines in COVID cases continue, students and staff in East Baton Rouge Parish public schools will no longer have to wear masks when the spring semester starts in January.

The school system made the announcement late Wednesday. East Baton Rouge is one of the few school districts that continued with mask-wearing after Gov. John Bel Edwards lifted his statewide mandate on Oct. 26. Others that continued requiring masks, such as Jefferson Parish, have since lifted their local mandates.

In a statement, Superintendent Sito Narcisse said he decided to lift the mask mandate based on the advice of medical professionals who sit on the district’s Health Advisory Committee, which was created soon after the coronavirus pandemic hit Louisiana in March 2020.

“By working together, following the guidance of health care professionals and taking all possible precautions, we have continued to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” Narcisse said. “Our community has reached a point where that hard work is allowing us the opportunity to continue to relax some of the ongoing guidance and continue to return to a sense of normalcy.”

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Mask-wearing will shift from required to optional Jan. 4, when students and staff return from Christmas break, unless cases increase and produce a positivity rate of 0.5% or greater over a 10- to 14-day period.

The district's positivity rate for the month of October was about 0.2%, meaning cases would have to increase at least 2 1/2 times what they were last month to prompt a return to mandatory mask-wearing.

Students throughout Louisiana who ride school buses, however, continue to have to wear masks, thanks to a presidential order.

Just 12 staff or students from eight East Baton Rouge Parish schools reported testing positive last week for COVID. That’s down from a peak of 151 students or staff from 47 schools who reported testing positive in late August.

Statewide, case counts have plateaued at just shy of 500 students and staff testing positive per week, according to the state’s most recent weekly report, released Wednesday. That’s still higher, though, than weekly rates in April and May.

Email Charles Lussier at and follow him on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.