When North Carolina first released the recommendation and requirements for students returning to school this fall, guidelines stated that cloth face coverings would be required for all students and teachers when 6 feet of social distancing isn’t able to be maintained in common areas of school buildings.
A revision to the tool kit that was released on Friday, July 24, well after many parents had made decisions for their students based on the assumptions there would be more flexibility regarding the mask requirement, mandates that masks must be worn by all students and teachers any time they are on school grounds.
The requirement now states, “When schools reopen across NC, face coverings will be required for all K – 12th grade students, teachers, staff and adult visitors unless the person (or family member, for a student) states that an exception applies, or the person is eating, drinking, or strenuously exercising. Face coverings must be worn by K-12 students, and all teachers, staff, and adult visitors inside school buildings, and anywhere on school grounds, including outside. They will also be required while traveling on buses or other school transportation vehicles.”
The updated requirements state that children will be required to wear masks, even while outside, during the school day. There are still exceptions for medical and development needs, as well as when students are exercising.
The updated guidelines also clarify that face shields will not be allowed as a substitute for cloth face coverings, unless needed for students who are hard of hearing, students receiving speech/language services, or students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, or English-language learners.
Governor Roy Cooper has said that having opportunities for children to remove their masks during the school day is encouraged, but as the updated requirements state, that is a recommendation and not required.
“Schools/districts can also consider building in time throughout the school day when students, teachers, and staff can take short breaks from wearing cloth face coverings at times and in settings where risk for transmission is lower (e.g., outside and all people are consistently 6 feet apart). Mask breaks are recommended, but not required,” reads the updated requirements.