GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Guilford County Schools on Tuesday passed a universal mask requirement for students and staff in schools.
“We had to make a decision to ensure that schools remain open. That is our job,” said Dr. Sharon Contreras, Guilford County Schools superintendent.
Starting in the fall students and employees must keep their masks on except for eating or during recess.
Guilford County Health Director Dr. Iullia Vann warned the board of education members prior to the vote that COVID-19 metrics were trending in the wrong direction.
Vann said the COVID-19 positivity rate in the county was at 4.5 percent on Monday and expected to increase. Out of the total population, 45.5 percent of residents are fully vaccinated, however, children under 12 are not yet eligible for the shot.
“We don’t want another situation where students are sitting home experiencing months and months of remote learning,” Contreras said.
Additionally, COVID-19 testing will be required for all unvaccinated student-athletes on a weekly basis.
“If athletes want to participate and they don’t want to become vaccinated they’re going to have to be tested so that we do not have a cluster and they’re not transmitting a virus,” Contreras said.
Testing will also apply to students participating in high-risk extracurricular activities like marching band and chorus. Parental permission is given when students sign up for the voluntary activity.
Contreras said testing will be free and paid for by the state.
The school district will also require the vaccination status of employees, coaches and students who are involved in the extracurricular activities.
The requirement passed with a vote of 6-2. Board members Anita Sharpe and Linda Welborn opposed the recommendation.
Welborn told FOX8 she heard from many parents who did not agree with the recommendation on masking. She said there are concerns about the mental and social impact on children.
“Parents just want their young children to be children and they don’t want them to have to wear these masks all the time,” Welborn said. “It’s hard on these kids to have these masks all the time and the parents are just not happy about their children always wearing these masks.”
The board of education will review the requirement every 10 weeks.
The full recommendation reads as follows:
- Administration recommends approving universal mask requirements inside GCS buildings for the academic year 2021-2022. Universal mask requirements should be reviewed at the end of each academic quarter (every 10 weeks).
- Administration recommends implementing mandatory COVID-19 testing for students and staff who are not fully vaccinated who also participate in athletic and high-risk extracurricular activities consistent with CDC and NCDHHS guidance.
- Administration recommends the collection and maintenance of vaccination status for:
a. All GCS employees;
b. All GCS student-athletes and coaches; and
c. All GCS student participants in high-risk extracurricular activities.