In the voice of the Outer Banks
The Dare County School Board, at its special August 5 meeting, voted 6 to 1 to give parents the option of wearing face coverings from August 23, the first day of school. By the same margin, the board also voted to allow staff to choose whether or not to wear face covers.
Board member Joe Tauber introduced the motion with David Twiddy second. Board member Margaret Lawler cast the only dissenting vote. However, masks will be compulsory when traveling by school bus.
The board also voted unanimously to offer families and students the option of virtual learning for at least the first semester, with the requirement that those who choose to stay during this period. School administrators noted that an email would be sent to parents early next week for virtual school registration.
The August 5 meeting took place against the backdrop of a nationwide spate of COVID cases in North Carolina and Dare County, driven by the highly contagious Delta variant and a significant portion of the population that is not vaccinated.
At times, board chair Mary Ellon Balance had to stop the meeting to calm a rowdy crowd who were there largely to oppose mandatory masks in schools. At one point, she told the audience that members were going to have to leave the meeting due to the constant disruption, to which there were shouts of “No, no”.
By selecting the parental choice option, the board rejected the recommendation of mandatory masking made by Dare County Schools Superintendent John Farrelly and Dare County Department of Health and Human Services Director Sheila Davies. The CDC and North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper also recommended that students and staff wear face coverings at school, regardless of their immunization status.
Farrelly asserted that “the way to have the most children in school is universal masking. Because if all the children wore masks, very few would be quarantined. “
In opting for parental choice, the Dare Board followed in the footsteps of the Currituck Board of Education, which selected the same parental choice option last week. The action by Dare’s board also follows the July 29 publication of a poll showing 63% of parents in the district and 60% of school staff supported the option of parenting.
Conversely, schools in Hyde County announced on August 4 that face coverings will be mandatory in schools in that district.
In other actions at the August 5 meeting, the board also voted against a number of recommendations from the Safer Schools NC public health toolkit, including the promotion of COVID-19 vaccines, enforcement of the social distancing on school buses, offering COVID testing options to schools in Dare County. campus and the collection of staff and student immunization data.
At the same time, temperature checks at entrances to school buildings will continue into the new school year, the council decided, but voted to remove daily screening questions.