Students will be required to wear face masks while on school buses

BY KARISSA MILLER

Barring a new state mandate, Iredell-Statesville Schools students and staff will not be required to wear face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 when the new school year begins next month.

During an emergency meeting on Wednesday, the I-SS Board of Education unanimously voted to adopt a resolution that states “Face coverings will be optional for all employees and parent choice for students for the 2020-2021 school year.”

Gov. Roy Cooper’s State of Emergency Executive Order, which requires masks to be worn in public schools, expires on July 30. I-SS leaders said Wednesday that they don’t anticipate a new statewide mandate requiring students to wear masks during the upcoming school year.

In addition to making face masks optional, the district will stop daily COVID-10 screenings, which include a temperature check and questions about possible exposure.

During the past 18 months, 237 deaths in Iredell County have been attributed to COVID-19. More than 19,670 people have tested positive, but the number of positive cases and hospitalizations have declined steadily in the past few months.

I-SS officials are asking parents to keep their children home if they exhibit symptoms of COVID-19. The district will continue strict cleaning protocols in all schools.

Here’s what you need to know:

• Masks will still be required for all students and staff on school buses in compliance with a federal order.
• If there are known transmissions within a school, families will be notified by the district. Parents can then choose if they want their child to mask.
• If a school has a “cluster,” which is five or more individuals who test positive, then masks will be required until the school is no longer deemed a “cluster.”
• Students and staff who are medically fragile should work with their child’s principals to ensure they are as safe as possible. The district’s nursing staff will help the principals provide accommodations.

During the 2020-2021 school year, if a student or employee tested positive for COVID-19, any person in close contact  — defined as within six feet for 15 minutes or longer — with the student or employee was asked to quarantine.

This resulted in several classrooms and schools being temporarily closed and moved to remote learning during the 2020-2021 school year.

The CDC now recommends the “six-foot rule” be reduced to three feet. This potential change in how a “close contact” is defined would result in fewer quarantines and school closures. So far, the data has shown that there is little secondary spread in schools and that students are not transmitting COVID-19 in school buildings.

District leaders encourage parents to contact the governor and legislators to change the definition of close contact from six feet to the CDC-recommended three feet.

I-SS will continue to work with local and state health officials on appropriate COVID 19 protocols and recommendations.

District leader want to remind parents that it is essential to remember that all protocols are subject to change based on future mandates by the state or federal government.

“We just don’t know minute to minute. So we are doing the best we can at this moment,” said school board member Sam Kennington.


RESOLUTION REGARDING FACE COVERINGS

Whereas, on July 21, 2021, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services revised the Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit to no longer require face coverings in public schools;

Whereas, over the course of the 2020-2021 school year, the rate of transmission of COVID-19 was low within Iredell-Statesville Schools and the analysis shows that most infections in children occurred outside of school;

Whereas, all employees and students twelve years of age or older have available the option to receive a free COVID-19 vaccination;

Whereas, masking is required by federal law on all buses; and

Whereas, the following is subject to change at any time from those having authority to do so, CDC, DHHS and our government acting in their official capacity.

Therefore, the Iredell-Statesville Board of Education resolves and adopts the following:

1. Face coverings will be optional for all employees and parent choice for students for the 2021-2022 school year.
2. Students and employees that are not fully vaccinated are encouraged to wear a mask and discuss wearing a mask with their medical provider.
3. Employees and the parents of children twelve years of age and older that are not fully vaccinated are encouraged to discuss vaccination with their medical provider.
4. The Superintendent is directed to institute other appropriate mitigating measures to stop or slow the spread of COVID-19.
5. The Superintendent is authorized to require the wearing of face coverings by students, staff and visitors if it is determined, after consultation with the local Health Director that the wearing of face coverings in a school is necessary to keep a school open or to
stop the immediate spread of COVID-19. The Superintendent may make this determination for any classroom, school, or division of a school. Any decision requiring face coverings to be worn in all of the Iredell-Statesville Schools is reserved for the Board of Education.
6. Harassment, discrimination, bullying or retaliation based on any person’s decision to wear or not wear a face covering is prohibited and will not be accepted.

Adopted July 28, 2021.
_____________________________
Martin Page, Chairman
Iredell-Statesville Board of Education

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