Special to Iredell Free News

Gov. Roy Cooper’s current COVID-19 State of Emergency executive order is scheduled to end on Wednesday, June 30.

As a result, Iredell-Statesville Schools officials do not anticipate a statewide mandate requiring students to wear masks during the 2021-2022 school year.

I-SS will continue to work with local and state health officials on appropriate COVID-19 protocols and recommendations. The district plans to adjust some of the current protocols, provided these changes do not violate any state laws or requirements by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

If there is a new statewide mandate requiring students and teachers to wear masks in schools for the 2021-2022 school year, I-SS will grant good faith religious exemption requests, provided they are documented and parents or students follow the appropriate paperwork for filing.

In addition, the district will grant exceptions based on documented medical or behavioral reasons preventing a student from wearing a mask. This documentation may be provided by a medical provider or a parent.

In addition, temperature screening and COVID-19 question protocols will be suspended. District officials will continue to request that parents not send children to school if they are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.

I-SS will also continue with strict cleaning protocols in all schools.

During the 2020-2021 school year, if a student or employee tested positive for COVID-19, any person in close contact (within 6 feet for 15-plus minutes) 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 officials encourage our stakeholders to contact the governor and legislators to change the definition of close contact from six feet to the CDC-recommended three feet. Unless this rule changes, I-SS will, under current DHHS guidelines, likely need to quarantine more students and staff, which may result in the temporary closure of classrooms and schools throughout the year.

“While we want to provide parents and students information on next school year, it is essential to remember that all protocols are subject to change based on future mandates by the State or federal government,” district officials said.