DAVIDSON COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — The Davidson County Schools Board of Education voted to make masks optional for students and staff in district buildings for the 2021-2022 academic school year.
The vote was met with cheers and applause from more than 100 people in attendance at the school board meeting Monday.
“If we don’t stand up for our children then who will,” said one parent during public comments.
It was standing room only inside.
“It makes absolutely no sense to force kids to regurgitate the same breath of air over and over all day long,” said another parent.
Students and staff will be required to wear a mask while riding the bus due to poor ventilation and social distancing.
Superintendent Dr. Emily Lipe read recommendations from the N.C. Strong Schools Toolkit and Davidson County Health Department, which encouraged universal masking including for people who are fully vaccinated.
Only 35 percent of people 12 and older are vaccinated in Davidson County and new case numbers are on the rise, according to Davidson County health leaders.
“We did everything possible since day one to put our kids first and we’ve done that since day one,” said Ashley Carroll, a member of the school board.
Members said masking should be a choice left to parents, students and staff.
“It’s not an easy decision, we all have kids too,” said Christy Jones, a member of the school board. “We all have people that work in the system that we know and love and so it’s a hard decision, but it’s one we do not take lightly.”
If a student is out sick with the virus it will be treated like any other illness, an excused absence. They will be required to complete assignments outside of the classroom.
If a parent visits their child for lunch at school, the principal will provide a separate private space.
The Davidson County Health Department will establish a threshold for the number of infections at a school that may result in a temporary closure.
One student in attendance told FOX8 she will keep her mask on during class.
“We’ve been through so much these past two years in quarantine,” said Madison Knight, a senior student in Davidson County Schools. “I think it is incredibly important that we keep our peers safe because the last thing all of us students need is to grieve the loss of our peers.”
President of the Davidson County Association of Educators Paul Piatkowski told FOX8 he was disappointed in the decision for optional masking.
“I think we are going to see more disruptions if we do see a large population not wearing masks,” Piatkowski said.
He is worried about the health risk for students and teachers, lack of social distancing in schools and the possibility students could be out sick with the virus for multiple days.
“We know that layering the safety protocols is the way to go,” he said. “Hopefully we will come up with some additional ones, to mitigate whatever negative elements we see coming out of the change to the mask protocol.”
Davidson County Schools joins Stokes County Schools, Wilkes County Schools, Randolph County Schools and Davie County Schools where masks will be optional.
Meanwhile, Guilford County Schools, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools and Alamance-Burlington School System are requiring masks for everyone at the start of the academic year.