DARE COUNTY, N.C. (WAVY) — Dare County is now one of 108 school districts in North Carolina with a universal mask policy.
The decision was unanimous Wednesday night after board members received letters from Gov. Roy Cooper and various healthcare leaders asking them to re-evaluate their COVID-19 protocols for the 2021-2022 school year.
All people inside a school division facility will now be required to wear masks starting Thursday, Sept. 2.
The board surveyed schools on Aug. 23 and Sept. 1. On Aug. 23, 30% of students and 40% of employees reported they wore a mask. On Sept. 1, that number jumped to 45% of students and 75% of faculty after the virus started spreading. Seventy-nine people were reported to be exposed to COVID-19 during the first week of class.
This week, that number now is at 399. Everyone who came into contact with someone infected had to quarantine for 14 days.
“I don’t want to get into a public debate about masks. What I’m just stating, that, if the goal is to keep kids in school, then the path is to either reduce the number of kids in school or go to universal masking,” said Superintendent John Farrelly.
Farrelly explained that 98% of classes in Dare County Schools are unable to social distance and he strongly recommended a universal mask policy. He said when students mask up, they won’t have to quarantine if someone gets COVID-19.
Moments before the motion passed, two parents were escorted out of the meeting for being disruptive. They were disappointed with the mask policy.
The school board also voted to limit non-essential visitors and to make vaccine information available on the district’s website.
Families who want to sign up for the district’s virtual academy and return to in-person class will have until Sept. 6 to do so. An email will be sent to all parents and guardians Thursday morning that will link to PowerSchool. They’ll be able to either request that their student comes out of virtual or goes into the virtual program.