Iredell-Statesville Schools students and staff will have the option of wearing a mask when classes get under way next month.
The Iredell-Statesville Schools Board of Education called an emergency meeting Wednesday morning to update their masking policy for the upcoming 2021-22 school year.
Upon a recommendation from Superintendent Jeff James, the board voted unanimously to give parents the ability to choose whether their student would wear a mask to school as well as making masks optional for all staff.
As a part of the meeting, two options were presented to the board. The first option was a continuation of the guidelines that were in place at the end of last school year, with some minor modifications. The second, which was the one that was ultimately recommended and voted on, gives more freedom to staff and students in I-SS, but comes with many more stipulations if a COVID-19 case is reported.
Within the option that passed, all staff and students are “encouraged” to wear a mask, but not required. However, social distancing measures will still be in place and masks will still be required, per federal law, for staff and students on buses.
With masks now optional, additional guidelines were put in place. If there are known transmissions within a school, parents will be notified and given the choice on whether they want their child to be masked. If a cluster of cases, five or more individuals, is found, the entire school will be forced to mask “until the school is no longer deemed a cluster.”
In all K-5 classes, if two or more positive cases are linked, the class will be required to mask for two weeks. In grades 6-8, if there is determined to be substantial spread within a single grade level, that grade level may be mandated to mask.
Masks will be required on a countywide basis if Iredell County were to be designated as a Red Level (critical community spread) by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Currently, Iredell is labeled at a Yellow Level, two steps below Red.
All decisions regarding potential mask mandates for classes, grade levels and entire schools will be made at James’ discretion.
“Our number one priority is making sure children have an opportunity to be in school,” Boen Nutting, chief of strategic planning and student services for I-SS , said. “We know that being in school, in a classroom, socially interacting with other students is the most important thing for us at this point. We don’t want to spread the virus, but we certainly don’t want to send children home again like we did last year.
“But if we have significant spread, we will have to address it.”
This decision comes in the wake of many other counties in the area making similar decisions regarding masking for the upcoming school year, but it also is yet to be seen what Gov. Roy Cooper will announce in his press conference that was called to address the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases that is set for Thursday afternoon