Macon votes for optional face coverings; Jackson County continues to demand
When school began in August, North Carolina health officials urged schools to require face masks to be worn indoors, however, local school boards were left to define their own. masking policies. In August, it was evenly split between neighborhoods that required masks and those that made it optional. But after an increase in COVID cases shortly after school started, all but two of North Carolina’s districts have demanded masks for students and staff.
With COVID19 measures trending down statewide, many school districts have changed their face coverage policies and reverted to allowing optional masks.
Macon County Schools became one of 14 districts among the state’s 115 school districts to make face coverings optional for students and staff.
Under a new state law, school boards must vote on their mask policies on a monthly basis. Until the end of October, the StrongSchoolsNC (K-12) public health toolkit recommended universal indoor masking in all K-12 schools. But the state’s Department of Health and Human Services has updated the guidelines to say schools may consider making masks optional when COVID transmission rates in their counties drop to moderate or low levels.
While board meetings have been hosted by anti-mask protesters in recent months, Macon County Education Board Chairman Jim Breedlove has made it clear that the decision of the advice was not based on public pressure, but rather on the science and facts surrounding Macon County’s current COVID19 measures.
The day after Macon County voted to make face coverings optional for students and staff, the Jackson County Board of Education voted to resume the face cover requirement in school buildings. According to Jackson County, the decision to require face coverings centered on the council’s intention to keep students in school for in-person instruction. Without face coverings, the quarantine required for students and staff can lead to significant staff shortages.