MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — With COVID-19 cases on the rise and the new recommendations from the CDC on masking in schools, exactly what can students expect when they return to class in a few weeks?

Education leaders say the decision on wearing masks in the classroom should be made on the local level.

“Every school system in the state of Alabama has the autonomy to make a decision for themselves,” said Michael Sibley, communications director with the Alabama Department of Education.

Sibley said despite rising COVID-19 cases in Alabama, the department is following the lead of state health leaders.

“We take our cues from the Alabama Department of Public Health. So, it will be in consultation with ADPH if that order were to come down if it were to,” he said.

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said it’s hard to compare the risks in one school system to another and agrees masking decisions should made by local school boards. But he encourages all who can, to get vaccinated.

“Remember, schools are not just full of kids they are full of adults as well. We certainly encourage everyone who is in a school setting to be vaccinated if it’s possible for them to do that,” Harris said.

But even so, there is still the chance of COVID-19 hot spots popping at schools around the state. And if that happens, educators need to be ready to react.

“Virtual learning, masking and all the other things that came as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. We have that experience under our belt now so, as we move forward into the coming school year, we hope that school systems remember the lessons learned over the past year,” Sibley said.

Meanwhile, Gov. Kay Ivey has maintained her position that students need to return to the classroom and that she had no plans to re-impose any type of statewide mask mandate.

The American people, Governor Ivey included, are understandably frustrated with the changing goal post and whiplash over the CDC’s covid-19 guidance. Governor Ivey has been crystal clear on her position that there will be no mandates from the state level. As the governor has said previously, the state of emergency has ended, and Alabama is moving forward. We have been at this for months. We know what preventative measures we can take on our own and now have a safe and effective vaccine to beat this thing. The governor believes that the current circumstances do not warrant a blanket ‘one size fits all’ approach. Generally, it is school officials who are in charge of making decisions that work best for their school. The governor trusts these school officials to make the best decision possible using all available information.

Gina Maiola, Gov. Kay Ivey’s press secretary