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I-SS Board votes to continue mask requirement
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I-SS Board votes to continue mask requirement

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The Iredell-Statesville Schools Board of Education voted 5-2 Monday night to continue requiring students to wear masks at school.

After voting in December to reinstate the mask requirement starting on Jan. 5, the board voted Monday to extend the requirement through the next board of education meeting on Feb. 14.

Board Chairman Todd Carver and member Bill Howell were the dissenting votes.

Howell made an initial motion to make masks optional, but the motion was not seconded.

“Whether it’s the communicable disease law or the toolkit the fact is we have sent healthy children home,” Howell said. “We have sent children home that did not need to go home. (Superintendent) Dr. (Jeff) James has begged and pleaded to get a three-foot rule, which would have solved a lot of our problems. I am not convinced that the tests are accurate. I do know one thing, I agree with many of you, my rights have been taken from me.”

After Howell’s motion failed, Sam Kennington made a motion to continue with the mask requirement.

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During discussion of Kennington’s motion, Carver asked the board to instead, consider providing a one-percent positive rate threshold and allow any school under that threshold to make masks optional until their COVID positive rate rose above one percent.

The board indicated they did not want to muddy the waters and instead passed a different motion to review Carver’s suggestion along with studying any and all possibilities to reduce the exclusion of children from schools.

Before the board voted to require masks, numerous board members expressed the sentiment during the discussion of Kennington’s motion that their hands are currently tied by the state’s communicable disease law.

Board attorney Ashley F. Leonard described the communicable disease law as a state law that gives authority to the state commission of health to authorize control measures for communicable disease. It also requires all persons to follow these control measures. And the school board falls under the definition of persons.

“The toolkit is not really the issue, it’s the communicable disease law,” board member Martin Page said. “That is where the problem has been, and that law goes way back. Now we are seeing Raleigh once again trying to blame someone else for everything, this is an absolute no win.”

Board member Doug Knight added that his vote to keep the mask requirement was not a science decision but about keeping kids in schools.

“It’s not a science question anymore I think, it seems to be politics and keeping kids in schools. I love science but that’s not what this question is.”

The board will vote again on the issue at the Feb. 14 meeting.

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