KANNAPOLIS, NC - In the state, districts make local decisions on policy masking and other actions to limit the expansion of the delta. These decisions will affect the health of students and employees and the schools' ability to offer as much personal learning as possible.
Though the physical wellbeing of the community drove Watauga's decision, Superintendent Scott Elliot stated that the policy would also mean fewer quarantines and academic interruptions.
The current state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) guidance for schools includes a mask exception for quarantines: If both the diseased and the exposed person were wearing masks during close contact, the exposed person does not need to quarantine. Quarantine is not required for fully immunized people.
Other schools and districts have changed policies after students and staff were quarantined. The quarantine was lifted after four days of mask-free schooling.
Henderson County, Watauga County, Swain County, and Kannapolis City school boards recently revised their mask-optional rules. As of Aug. 16, more than 50 districts still allowed students to enter without a mask.
Gov. Roy Cooper has advanced the use of masks in classrooms. According to a news release, school boards that “have failed to adopt” the state's safety toolkit got a letter from Cooper, DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, and State Health Director Dr. Betsey Tilson on Friday.
“The data shows that children learn better in person and that masks minimize COVID infections, so we should keep them there,” Cooper said. “The Delta version is progressing very quickly, and it is strongly recommended to school to ask for masks mandatory.”
However, the lack of a mandate has produced contentious local educational boards and difficult decision-making for school directors.
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