ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education voted Monday to extend their school mask mandate until the end of the first quarter, on October 11. They will reevaluate the mandate at that time.
The decision comes after newly released data shows more than 17% of the student population and nearly 6% of staff members are out on mandatory quarantine. More than 1.5% of students and more than 2% of staff are currently positive for COVID-19. The district also currently has seven confirmed COVID clusters. That’s the most they’ve had since the pandemic began.
“We want to make sure that our students are in school, so any time that there are large numbers of students excluded from schools, we’re concerned,” said Rowan-Salisbury Student Services and Compliance Officer April Kuhn.
Kuhn says many of the students who are out on quarantine were exposed before the board imposed their mandatory mask mandate. 950 of the early 3,200 quarantined students returned to the classroom on Monday.
Kuhn says she anticipates the number of quarantined students will continue to decrease. If a student comes in contact with a COVID-positive individual, they do not need to quarantine if both they and the infected person were properly masked.
“The purpose of recommending that we keep that mandate in place is because we want to decrease the number of students who were exposed at school,” she said.
In Monday’s Special Called Board Meeting, the board ultimately sided with the district in a tense 4-2 vote. The decision comes with the support of local clergy, health professionals, and the Salisbury-Rowan NAACP, who all sent letters urging the board to extend the mask mandate.
“We have to do everything we can do as parents, as community leaders, just as people – we want to stop the spread and slow the spread and keep our scholars in school, we have to mask up,” said Salisbury-Rowan NAACP President Gemale Black.
Meanwhile, a handful of parents and students showed up at the meeting with signs, outwardly opposing an extended mask mandate.
“This system is broken, and it’s not ok,” said parent Kristin Toler. “It’s time for adults to stand up for these kids and use some common sense.”
At this time, Kuhn says the district is not considering moving to an all-virtual option, but they are asking the community to ensure they are doing everything they can to reduce the risk of exposure outside of school.