When school started back in August, North Carolina health officials urged schools to require that face masks be worn indoors, however, it was left up to local school boards to set their own masking policies. In August, it was evenly split between districts that were requiring masks and those that were making it optional. But after a surge in COVID cases shortly after school began, all but two districts in North Carolina required masks for students and staff.
With COVID19 metrics trending downward across the state, many school districts have amended their face covering policies and have returned to allowing masks be optional.
Macon County Schools became one of 14 districts out the state’s 115 school districts to make face coverings optional for students and staff.
Under a new state law, school boards must vote monthly on their mask policies. Until late October, the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit (K-12) recommended universal indoor masking in all K-12 schools. But the state Department of Health and Human Services updated the guidance to say that schools can consider making masks optional when the COVID transmission rates in their counties drop to moderate or low levels.
While the Board of Education board meetings have been met by anti-mask protestors over the last few months, Macon County Board of Education Chairman Jim Breedlove was clear that the board’s decision was not based on pressure from the public, but rather based on the science and facts surrounding Macon County’s current COVID19 metrics.
The day after Macon County voted to make face coverings optional for students and staff, Jackson County Board of Education vote to resume requiring face coverings within school buildings. According to Jackson County, the decision to require face coverings was centered around the board’s intent of keeping students in school for in-person instruction. Without face coverings, the required quarantine for both students and staff may result in significant staffing shortages.