HAYESVILLE, NC: At the called meeting on September 7, the Clay County Board of Education decided to continue the mask mandate until the COVID-19 numbers decrease.
The decision was unanimous.
The board will review the policy every month. NC General Assembly issued two policy options for school systems regarding masks, but one must be approved every month. Option A is a mask mandate, and option B is guidelines for mask optional protocols.
Superintendent Dale Cole recommended the mask requirement continue for the time due to COVID-19 numbers.
The original mandate was initiated on August 18.
The first three weeks of classes indicated COVID-19 quarantines have almost every week. Children’s positive cases grew significantly week over week, with 17 positive students on week one, 26 week two, and 45 week three. Staff positive cases have remained constant for the time being at three total.
The schools did rework their lunchroom protocol and seating to prevent possible exposures during lunchtime. As of week three, 74 students were exposed during lunch.
In the high school, 77 students (over 20 percent) were in quarantine. The middle school has 60 in quarantine.
Teachers have expressed the difficulty of teaching students remotely and in person, and some feel that masks are necessary right now. However, all enjoy being back in the classroom with students and instructing face to face.
Additionally, the board approved the recommendation to let the superintendent shut down a school or make it virtual without calling a board of education meeting. The measure deals specifically with a public health emergency.
“As long as we have staff available…we can have school for 10 kids if that’s all we have. The problem is when we don’t have the staff to monitor the safety of the students,” Superintendent Cole explained.
Cole feels like having school virtual is better than not having school at all. Virtual might be the best option for specific situations if a teacher can work while in quarantine.
The majority of substitutes are older and are unsure about entering a school system during the pandemic. Additionally, each school typically needs a certain amount of substitutes each day on a typical day.