EDENTON — Edenton-Chowan Schools will continue its current mask-wearing mandate for students and staff.
The Edenton-Chowan Board of Education agreed to extend the mandate at its meeting earlier this month. Board member Ricky Browder cast the lone vote against the extension.
In recommending the extension, Superintendent Michael Sasscer noted that positive cases of COVID-19 in the schools had increased in September but also that quarantines had decreased.
Under state law school districts must revisit masking policies monthly.
Sasscer told the board that “managing masks” adds an extra level of exhaustion for teachers and staff. He also said he appreciates the good work that schools are doing to curb infections and keep children safe.
When board member Gil Burroughs asked whether it was time for the district to consider removing students from school buses if they refuse to wear masks, Sasscer indicated that he didn’t think so.
Sasscer said he is concerned that disciplining students for not wearing masks or wearing them improperly on a school bus could be a “slippery slope” that erodes community support for mask wearing, particularly given the divisiveness over the masking mandate.
The school board also approved remote learning and virtual learning plans to submit to state education officials for review. The plans are in response to Senate Bill 654, which became law at the end of August and establishes a framework for districts to develop remote learning and virtual learning plans.
The board unanimously approved a remote learning plan that provides for remote instruction when school is closed because of inclement weather or when a school or individual classroom is closed because of COVID exposure.
The plan calls for teachers to provide packets of instructional materials for students who do not have access to a reliable internet connection. In addition, the plan recognizes that WiFi connections are available through some community partners such as McDonald’s and some churches.
While the remote learning plan would apply to all students in the event of a weather-related closing, or to all students in an affected school or classroom in a COVID-related closing, it also would be offered to individual students for health-related reasons if requested by a parent. The decision to approve virtual learning for any student would be based on a case-by-case review and would involve an “extreme case,” Sasscer said.
The school board voted unanimously to approve the district’s virtual learning plan.
All school districts in the state are required to revisit their masking policy on a monthly basis.
“Camden still has the same mask decision in place,” Camden County Schools Superintendent Joe Ferrell told The Daily Advance last week. Ferrell noted that the monthly review and vote by the school board is required through June 2022.
“I do not anticipate a change at the October meeting,” Ferrell said, explaining that the current policy is a hybrid plan that requires students and staff to wear a mask indoors when they cannot maintain appropriate physical distance but allows them go unmasked where physical distancing in possible and being practiced.
“It seems to be working fairly well for us,” Ferrell said.
He said that students and staff appreciate getting a “mask break” at times throughout the day and that the district’s quarantine numbers have dropped.
Perquimans County Schools has a mask mandate in place for students, staff and visitors. District spokeswoman Michelle Maddox said the school board will revisit the policy at its next meeting on Monday.
Currituck County Schools Superintendent Matt Lutz said the district’s plan is to continue is mask mandate for now. He also said it will be reviewed monthly as called for under state law.
“In an effort to keep the quarantines at a minimum, and keep students in school, there is no recommendation for a change to the mask policy at this time,” Lutz said.
Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools spokeswoman Tammy Sawyer said the ECPPS policy requiring masks to be worn on school campuses will remain in place.
“Currently, ECPPS requires all individuals, including students, employees, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status, to wear face coverings at all times while inside of school buildings or on school transportation vehicles, including school buses, vans, and other group school transportation,” Sawyer said.
Sawyer noted the board will continue to revisit the policy monthly.