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Board: Pender County students, staff not required to wear masks

Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 11:13 AM EDT
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PENDER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - Pender County Schools students and staff members will not be required to wear masks, the Pender County Board of Education announced during a special meeting Friday.

The new resolution goes into effect July 30.

“All students, staff and community members are encouraged to make their own decisions regarding their public health and to choosing whether to wear masks,” the resolution states. “Harassment discrimination and bullying or intimidation based on any person’s decision to wear or not wear a face covering or a mask, will not be tolerated.”

The decision reverses an earlier announcement from the board when it stated that while it believed that parents should have a choice about the use of masks, it did not have the authority to lift the statewide mask mandate for schools.

Governor Roy Cooper announced on Wednesday updated guidance from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services that would ease masking-wearing requirements for schools. The updated guidance, which goes into effect on July 30, encourages schools with students in K-8 to require all children and staff to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status. Schools with high school students should ensure that anyone who isn’t fully vaccinated, including students, wear a mask indoors.

The new Pender County Schools resolution can be seen below:

WHEREAS, the Pender County Board of Education (PCBOE) has the privilege of serving more than 9,300 students and 1,200 staff members;

and WHEREAS, all PCBOE employees, including teachers and other school personnel, are eligible for and were offered vaccines at special clinics for PCBOE employees;

and WHEREAS, COVID-19 infection and mortality rates for children have shown to be lower than COVID-19 infection and mortality rates for adults;

and WHEREAS, analysis has shown that staff-to-student and student-to-student infection is not the primary means of transmission among infected children;

and WHEREAS, on July 20, 2021, the PCBOE issued the following statement regarding masks:

The Pender County Board of Education adheres to the belief that parents should have choice when it comes to the use of masks for our students. However, due to state law, we do not have authority to lift the mask mandate. We encourage our citizens to contact their state elected officials in regard to Senate Bill 173.

WHEREAS, on July 21, 2021, Governor Roy Cooper announced that the existing mask mandate for schools contained in Executive Order 220 would expire on July 30, 2021, and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services released an updated version of the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit (K-12) that removed the requirement that North Carolina schools require face coverings or masks indoors;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Pender County Board of Education will not require face coverings or masks for students or staff beginning July 30, 2021. All student, staff, and community members are encouraged to make their own decisions regarding their personal health in to choosing whether to wear a mask. Harassment, discrimination, bullying or intimidation based on any person’s decision to wear or not wear a face covering or a mask will not be tolerated.

Mary Scott Winstead, Deputy Communications Director in Gov. Roy Cooper’s office, released a statement regarding the school board’s vote:

“Guidance from the CDC and state health officials is clear that students should continue to wear masks in the classrooms and local officials should take necessary steps to protect the health and safety of students and educators. The Governor and state health officials will continue to monitor the state’s trends and safety protocols in place to determine if additional state action is warranted.”

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