After numerous schools were forced to go virtual over the last two weeks, the Iredell-Statesville Schools Board of Education responded Monday night by voting to tighten the mask requirement.
With more than 3,500 students currently in quarantine, Sam Kennington brought a motion before the board to require student medical exemption waivers to be signed by a medical professional.
The board, in turn, voted 5-0 to require medical exemption waivers to be signed by a medical professional.
Students will have until Monday to meet the new requirements or will be required to wear masks going forward.
Bill Howell and Doug Knight both abstained from voting.
According to school officials, as of this week roughly 800 waivers for students had been submitted and were to avoid mask use. School officials estimated roughly 700 of those were signed by parents.
“We’ve been very lenient in trying to keep our schools open, but it was clear from posts on Facebook and everywhere else that we are being taken advantage of on this,” Chairman Martin Page told the board. “We had hoped parents would be up front with the medical waivers but that has not been the case. Unfortunately, I believe it has come to this.”
In abstaining from the vote, Knight noted he did so because he believed the board was making an assumption on the validity of the current waivers.
“We are assuming that some people are not telling the truth about medical necessity,” Knight said. “I have an issue assuming and not inherently trusting parents first because we are making an assumption of a negative.”
With six schools currently virtual due to the number of students in quarantine, Page told the board he felt like this was the last step the board could take before having to move the whole system to remote learning.
“We’ve got to try something, or we are going to close down by the end of the week,” Page said. “I’m not sure this will keep us open, but we’ve got to try.”
As required by the state legislature, the board will continue to revisit the mask issue monthly to determine if the data given continues to require the use of masks.