Face coverings to help prevent the spread of coronavirus will continue to be required in schools, at least until the next school board meeting in October, the Moore County Board of Education voted Wednesday at their regular meeting.
The slim majority vote, 4 to 3, came after an hour of public address to the board from parents, some angry, overwhelmingly in favor of making masks optional and expressing anti-vaccination views.
At one point, a speaker addressing the board took off his mask, refused to put it back on and was soon escorted out of the building by Moore County Schools Police.
Another speaker showed a video of a young child throwing a tantrum as teachers patiently tried to get him to wear a mask. It was unclear if the incident occurred in a local school.
In what has now become a national debate as schools have returned to in-person instruction after a year of remote learning, the school board has been put in a position to decide if masks should be required as most children remain unvaccinated.
Many parents have struggled with the decision to send their children back to school this year for in-person learning even with a requirement for masks. Other parents feel like they should be given the right to choose if their children should wear masks in school.
The recent increased level of acrimony has led the school district to use a metal detector for visitors attending the public meetings and to add security personnel.
Before the meeting, Public School Advocates, a group organized to support public education in Moore County, held an event called Give Moore Thanks outside of the school district central office in Carthage. Despite the rain, heavy at times, they collected donations of food and school supplies, asked that people sign thank you cards to teachers and waved signs showing support for educators as cars sped by, some honking their horns.
Meanwhile, another larger group was organized on the opposite side of the entrance to the district office to advocate for the lifting of the requirement that masks be worn at schools. They too displayed signs as well as listened to speakers.
School boards across the state are required to revisit their decision to require children and staff wear masks while at school every month. The issue is expected to be considered again at the next regular meeting scheduled for October 12.
Voting in favor of continuing the mask policy where Carter, Thompson, Dennison and Caldwell leaving Levy, Hensley and Holmes opposed.
Sale of Surplus Schools
In other matters, the school board voted to authorize Superintendent Bob Grimesey and the school attorney to enter negotiations with the Southern Pines Land & Housing Trust for the sale of the entire 17-acre parcel that once was the Southern Pines Primary School. The sales price is expected to be $685,000. Voting in the majority were Carter, Thompson, Dennison and Caldwell in favor. Levy, Hensley and Holmes voted against the measure.
The land and buildings that once housed the Aberdeen Elementary School are also expected to be disposed of. During Wednesday’s meeting, the school board voted to authorize the superintendent and attorney to negotiate with the Town of Aberdeen for the sale of that property for $853,000. The vote was 5-2 with Carter, Thompson, Dennison, Caldwell and Hensley in favor, Levy and Holmes opposed.
Feature photo: During the public address portion of the Moore County Board of Education, a man addressing the board took off his mask, refused to put it back on and was soon escorted out of the building by Moore County Schools Police.
~Written by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter John Patota.