Home Local News Richmond County School Board to discuss masking policy

Richmond County School Board to discuss masking policy

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ROCKINGHAM — Fourteen percent of North Carolina’s 116 school districts still require masking — including Richmond County Schools.

According to a document from the N.C. School Board’s Association, 17 districts have mandatory policies while the other 99 have made masks optional.

Katherine Bendell, director of Professional Development/Curriculum Technology Support for RCS, told the RO on Saturday that the policy will be discussed at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.

“We are in discussions regarding this and we are looking at all possibilities and what is best for the students and staff,” Health Director Cheryl Speight told the RO in an email on Friday, adding that she would not comment “until we have fully discussed from all angles.”

COVID-19 cases in the county, including among students, have fallen dramatically from the surge in January.

According to the RCS COVID Tracker, there have only been 30 new student cases from Feb. 14-28.

In that same time period, the Richmond County Health Department has reported 144 cases, with a 5.9% positivity rate as of Monday.

On Feb. 16, school board candidate Scotty Baldwin asked in a Facebook post: “Do you believe masks should be ‘optional’ or ‘mandatory’ in the Richmond County school system?

Although not all of the respondents were from Richmond County, nearly all said masks should be optional — and some said they shouldn’t be worn at all.

In some areas that have multiple districts, the city schools differ from the county schools.

While the Buncombe, Davidson and Orange county districts are optional, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, Lexington City Schools and Asheville City Schools make masks a requirement.

However, both the Halifax county district and Weldon City Schools mandate masks.

The other county school districts that require students to wear masks are: Anson, Bertie, Durham, Edgecombe, Hertford, Hyde, Martin, Northampton, Scotland, Washington and Warren.

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The day after Baldwin’s informal poll, the Carolina Journal reported that the General Assembly passed the Free the Smiles Act, which would give parents the right to have their students opt out of mask mandates.

During a press conference on the same day the bill passed, Gov. Roy Cooper and Health and Human Services Secretary Kody Kinsley said that if conditions continued to improve by March 7, schools could have local discretion toward masking restrictions.

However, Cooper last week vetoed the Free the Smiles Act, saying the law he signed last year allowing local decision making was “still the right course.”

“Passing laws for political purposes that encourage people to pick and choose which health rules they want to follow is dangerous and could tie the hands of public health officials in the future,” Cooper said.

House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, on Friday vowed to override the veto, the Carolina Journal reported.

The Richmond County Board of Education is scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 1.

 

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Managing Editor William R. Toler is an award-winning writer and photographer with experience in print, television and online media.