BY KARISSA MILLER

The Iredell-Statesville Schools Board of Education reversed course on Friday and voted unanimously to resume COVID-19 contact-tracing efforts in partnership with the Iredell County Health Department.

This decision does not impact the board’s decision to make face masks optional for staff and students in I-SS buildings during November. Masks are still required on buses.

Contact tracing is primarily the responsibility of the health department, but I-SS school nurses and staff members have been assisting throughout the pandemic.

However, on November 8, the I-SS board voted to pull school nurses out of the effort. As a result of the board’s decision, the responsibility of contract tracing fell on the administration and teachers.

According to Superintendent Jeff James, state law requires the school system to assist the health department with contact tracing. He warned the board at the November 8 meeting that removing nurses from contract tracing efforts could result in longer quarantines for students.

Vice Chairman Todd Carver said after the November 8 vote board members met with county officials and the health department. During that meeting, board members learned that the decision was negatively impacting teachers, staff and students.

“The board has put the professional staff in a no-win situation where to comply with the board’s wishes, the staff would have to violate the regulations of North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services,” Carver explained.

“The Board of Education never intended to put the staff in this position, and regrets the confusion this decision has caused to our staff,” he added. “It was never our intent to make it harder, but we were trying to make it easier on everyone.”

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