Mask requirement extended at Clay County Schools

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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.

graph of COVID-19 data at Clay County Schools

Superintendent Cole explains the cumulative COVID-19 numbers.

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.

No masks required at CCS for now

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HAYESVILLE, NC – Clay County students will be returning on August 23, 2021, and this year masks are optional for students and staff for now.

During the July 26, 2021 board meeting, the members voted to not require masks for the upcoming year. However, parents can send their children to school masked if that’s their preference.

83 percent of teachers were in favor of optional masks for this school year. School nurses recommended following NCDHHS and CDC guidance, which requires masks for K-8 for all staff and students. They cited masks’ effectiveness last year.

Only 1 percent of 12–17-year-olds in Clay County have been vaccinated and 34 percent of residents are fully vaccinated.

Current CDC guidance asks that everyone, including vaccinated individuals, wear a mask indoors if in an area of substantial or high transmission. Clay County is listed as a high transmission community by the CDC. Case data demonstrated a 22 percent change in 7-day totals in the area. Many southern states are seeing COVID-19 cases rise as the Delta variant works its way across the region.

Since Clay County Schools (CCS) aren’t requiring masks, online learning will remain an option for families who don’t want to potentially expose their children to COVID-19. However, this year, the school system will be using an online academy. CCS teachers won’t be providing in-person and remote learning to students.

Parents who wish to participate in online learning must inform their child’s principal by August 18.

Any student moved to fully remote instruction during Semester 1 must remain on fully remote instruction through December 22, 2021.

The parent must notify the principal that the student will be returning for Semester 2 by December 17th.

Cautionary measures such as quarantine and isolation for students and staff who are exposed, experiencing symptoms, or test positive for COVID-19 will remain in place.

CCS board applied for grant funding for onsite COVID-19 during the board meeting as well. If received, the $100,000 grant would connect them to a vendor for rapid tests, in-depth testing, and the hiring of either a nurse or nurse’s assistant.

Parents still have the option to refuse the testing of their child for COVID-19.

The in-house testing should help CCS isolate COVID-19 cases within the school system and hopefully prevent quarantining of entire classrooms.

Gilmer Schools lifts masks mandate on buses

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EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Step by step, little by little, Gilmer County is lifting restrictions and slowly moving back to far more casual life. Leaving behind masks and other PPE, the entire nation is taking steps as people are returning to sports arenas and school events like proms and graduations are showcasing the step back to life without certain constraints.

This week saw Gilmer’s Board of Education take another step on that same path as requests came for the board to lift the mandate for masks on buses.

This mandate has been in place all school year since Gilmer welcomed students back into class with the options for in-person or virtual learning. Now, a week before graduation, the board unanimously agreed that the time has come to step back from such restrictions. This does not mean you won’t see masks anymore. Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs made note that lifting the mandate only means they are optional now. Each student and parent are still the ones talking about the choice. According to Downs, many students do still wear the masks and have their own ready.

Downs said that many drivers have noted that students who don’t wear masks throughout the day will tend to forget them in a classroom. Bus drivers have some available, but the need for more has gone up as more students have laid down their masks throughout their standard day.

Board member Ronald Watkins, who has voiced opinions in favor of personal choice before, commented in the work session saying, “I say let them take them off.” Watkins advocated in favor of the request as he said to give the kids the option to wear them or not.

When questioned, Downs said that she has seen more masks used in elementary levels as opposed to higher grades.

While some comments were made among the board that this is only taking effect in the final days of this school year, it does set an indication as to what the board plans moving forward. As of now, this means that masks will continue to be optional on buses into the next school year.

Of course, should things change, the Board could always reinstate, but for now, it is 5-0 vote for lifting the mandate and allowing students and parents to make their choice on masks.

NCHSAA: Athletes playing indoor sports required to wear masks

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When you enter a High School gym in North Carolina, things will look a lot different than what you have become accustomed to if you have been to sporting events in Tennessee or Georgia.

Not only will the coaches and fans be wearing masks, now the players will be wearing them too.

In an email sent out yesterday to North Carolina High School Athletic Association members, the association announced that players are required to wear face masks during practices and contests, beginning Monday.

Previously, athletes were not required to wear masks when they were actively competing or practicing.

The NCHSAA also said a student with a medical condition that would not allow them to wear a face mask during competition would need medical clearance from a licensed doctor.

Que Tucker, the NCHSAA commisioner wrote in the email:

“NCHSAA staff members have received additional reports of volleyball teams being quarantined, which we know will impact their first contests next week. Collectively we must do everything we can to mitigate against the continuing spread of COVID-19, and it is our belief that the above steps will assist those efforts.”

This decision has been a long time coming, and I would expect it to overflow into sports and activities that are not just inside.

The NCHSAA has already made it known that North Carolina High School sporting events will only be allowed 25 fans total. Most schools are only allowing home team parents.


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