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Union County school board stays the course, votes to keep mask-wearing optional for students and staff

WBTV Charlotte logo WBTV Charlotte 8/19/2021 WBTV Web Staff
Healthcare workers speak out against mask mandates banned in schools © Provided by WBTV Charlotte Healthcare workers speak out against mask mandates banned in schools

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Union County Public School leaders kept their stance on masks in schools.

The school board voted 7-2 in favor of keeping mask-wearing optional indoors, in the school.

This came on the same day Cleveland County and Rowan-Salisbury Schools changed course and voted to make masks required.

Back in July, the school board voted unanimously to make masks optional.

During Wednesday’s board meeting, only two board members changed their minds.

It was a decision that elicited mixed reactions from parents in attendance.

”I know that masks aren’t going to be perfect, they’re not going to be 100 percent, but they don’t hurt,” parent Alicia Preston said. “They’ve definitely been shown to be a mitigation tool that we need.”

“I feel that it’s my personal choice for my children what to do,” added parent Elisabeth Claire. “My personal experience with them, with them...my children was not positive last year.”

This means that Union County, Iredell, Alexander, Catawba and Caldwell schools remain in the WBTV viewing area with an optional mask policy.

Earlier, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper reiterated his decision to leave the requirement for masks in schools to local districts.

“There is more buy-in and better enforcement when these decisions are made at a local level and we’re continuing to see that,” Cooper said.

And the state guidance, just updated Wednesday, recommends masks to be worn inside schools.

Here’s why:

It says if students who are not fully vaccinated after a close contact and masks were being worn by both people, that student does not need to quarantine.

Without both wearing masks, that student with the exposure also faces up to a 14-day quarantine.

Basically, that state guidance says masks work.

In July, parents got into a heated debate over masks.

The views were split among the speakers.

Some wanted optional mask-wearing, others wanted full masking for non-vaccinated and others wanted no mask mandate.

“I hope they make the masks optional and realize one size does not fit all,” parent Richard Daunt said.

Elena Brown told WBTV she wanted masks to still be a requirement in UCPS

“The CDC guidelines were just updated, it is clearly stated that unvaccinated students and staff need to wear face coverings,” Brown said.

Brown said removing mask requirements makes it so medically vulnerable children feel obligated to stay at home to protect their own health.

“A lot of parents are saying, ‘I’m going to have to quit my job, I’m going to have to take leave to home school if the masks aren’t in place until vaccinations are available for the under 12 crowd,” Brown said.

Other parents fear wearing masks for another school year could create long-term effects.

“There are kids who are having problems, skin rashes, causing some psychological disturbance. Kids with ADHD who are struggling,” Daunt said. “It generally creates an atmosphere of fear when everyone is wearing masks. It’s a visible reminder of like ‘danger, danger.’”

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