Mask wearing will only be required on school buses, the Moore County Board of Education unanimously decided at their meeting on Dec. 13. The move to rescind the mask requirement inside the schools comes after months of public outcry in favor of making masks optional and despite a spike in student infections and quarantines due to the COVID-19 virus.
The new mask-optional policy, made effective as of the date of the vote, covers students in all grades, teachers and staff. As required by state law, the school board will reconsider the matter at their next meeting in January.
For more than a year, the debate over masking has dominated the public comment period of school board meetings. At times, anti-mask speakers had to be asked to leave the meeting. Increased presence of Moore County Schools Police at meetings became the norm, together with the use of metal detector screening.
In making the recommendation, school leaders noted data that showed an upward trend in COVID-19 cases, but attributed it to the Thanksgiving holiday and hoped that the numbers would come down in January and February. Since the week of Nov. 8, the number of student infections rose from 17 to 33, according to data supplied by Moore County Schools.
Parents that do not want to send their children to school next semester, beginning in January 2022, can enroll in the district’s virtual learning alternative. The enrollment period for Connect! Virtual Academy will be extended until Dec. 20.
~Article and photo by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter John Patota.