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Macon, Jackson, and Swain vote to end mask mandate for schools

While Macon County Schools have kept masks optional for most of the current school year, Jackson and Swain County School each voted this week to end their mask mandates and make face coverings optional, falling in line with Governor Cooper’s latest directive to school districts.

The Jackson County Board of Education voted unanimously to end the current mask mandate and make face coverings OPTIONAL effective Monday, February 21. The decision was based on the district’s rapidly improving COVID data as well as revised state guidelines that no longer require asymptomatic individuals to quarantine.

Superintendent Dr. Dana Ayers credited a districtwide commitment to safety along with the tireless efforts of staff and the support of JCPS families for the district’s success in navigating the COVID pandemic.

“I applaud our staff and Board of Education who have been the constant when things were unsure,” Ayers said. “Equally as important, I praise our families and community for wanting what is best for kids and supporting the difficult decisions we have had to make. The mask mandate has been one of those difficult decisions.”

Ayers understands that COVID-19 and its variants will continue to be a challenge in the future, but she stressed the district’s reliance on data in the decision-making process.

“Over the last two pandemic years, JCPS focused on keeping students in school safely,” Ayers said. “All along, we used data and quarantine rules to guide decisions regarding the mask mandate. I am so pleased that our COVID data has shown such drastic improvement and allowed us to conclude the mask mandate.”

It is important to note that the changes will not apply to school buses due to federal legislation that requires the use of face coverings while riding in those vehicles.

Jackson County’s vote Thursday night during an emergency called meeting of the board comes hours after Governor Cooper called and districts to end their mask requirements.

“We are taking a positive step on mask requirements to help us move safely toward a more normal day to day life,” Cooper said. “It’s time to focus on getting our children a good education and improving our schools, no matter how you feel about masks.”

Swain County Schools also voted this week to make masks optional beginning Monday, Feb. 21 for staff and students.

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