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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) – Students and staff are required to continue wearing masks in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools for at least another month.

On Tuesday board of education members voted six-to-three to extend the masking policy in school buildings and on buses.  

Both board members and speakers at the meeting were split on the issue. One man was escorted out of the board room after holding up his mask and yelling at board members.

The school district’s COVID-19 response team gave an update to board members. 

According to the report, since the beginning of the school year on August 23 to September 17 there have been 1,014 confirmed student COVID-19 cases and 100 confirmed staff cases.

Nearly 2,000 students were deemed close contacts, which meant they were out of class to quarantine for 10 days or more. 

School officials report most of the spread is coming from the community, but if students are exposed it’s more than likely in a classroom.

There were 19 confirmed cases in athletics, 80 students and three coachers were deemed close contacts and had to quarantine.

The low case numbers motivated the school district to delay mandatory COVID-19 testing for high-risk extracurricular activities including sports. 

School officials are exploring the possibility of using the testing resources for any student experiencing COVID-like symptoms. They will be able to get a free diagnostic test with parental permission.   

New testing results data from the 2020-2021 school year showed the pandemic has taken a toll on students’ education. 

School officials presented an expected decrease in scores for end-of-grade tests across all subjects. There was also a dip in the four-year cohort graduation rate. 

“If we can keep our students in school for 180 days this year with the instruction and with support, my hope is that we’re going to see our students rebound to pre-COVID by the end of this year,” said Nicolette Grant, the school district’s chief academic officer. “It’s going to take use utilizing, using everything we have plus parents and students working together.”   

The school board is expected to review the masking policy at the end of October.