BEAUFORT — The Carteret County Board of Education unanimously approved Tuesday keeping masks optional inside school buildings, despite the rise in COVID-19 cases in the county and state due to the omicron variant.

The board also adopted the most recent N.C. Department of Health and Human Services StrongSchools Toolkit protocols that include those who test positive for COVID-19 quarantine for five days, then wear a mask in school for five additional days. Previously, those who tested positive isolated for seven or 10 days.

Board member Katie Statler, who made the motion to keep masks optional and adopt the most recent NCDHHS standards, further added that bullying of those wearing or not wearing masks in schools would not be tolerated.

Board member Dennis Goodwin provided the second, with fellow members unanimously approving the motion. John McLean was absent from the meeting.

Prior to the vote, Superintendent Dr. Rob Jackson reviewed COVID-19 statistics and the most recent NCDHHS recommendations. He further pointed out that students had been out of school since Dec. 17 for the winter holidays. Students reported back to classrooms Wednesday.

“There have been multiple changes to the toolkit while students and staff were out for holiday break,” he said during the meeting held in the school system’s central office on Safrit Drive.

During the public comment time prior to the vote, one parent, Cara Montford of Newport, asked that the mask requirement be reinstated in schools.

“I am asking that masks be mandated back in schools again because of the increase in COVID cases,” she said.

No other parents attended the meeting to speak.

New requirements included in the StrongSchools Toolkit and approved by the board Tuesday include:

·     Staff and students who have symptoms, regardless of vaccination status, should get tested and isolate from others while waiting for a result.

·     Staff and students who test positive, regardless of vaccination status, and do not have symptoms should isolate from others for five days, then wear a mask for five additional days.

·     Staff and students who test positive, regardless of vaccination status, and have symptoms should isolate from others until fever-free and symptoms are improving. Individuals should isolate for at least five days since symptoms began and then wear a mask for five additional days.

·     Staff and students who are exposed to someone with COVID-19 and are not vaccinated should stay away from others for five days, get tested on day five after exposure, and if they test negative, return to school while wearing a mask for five additional days.

·     Staff and students who are exposed to someone with COVID-19 and are vaccinated and eligible for a booster, but not yet boosted, should stay away from others for five days, get tested on day five after exposure, and if they test negative, return to school while wearing a mask for five additional days.

·     Staff and students who are exposed to someone with COVID-19 and are vaccinated, and have either received a booster or are not yet eligible for a booster, do not need to stay away from others, but should wear a mask for 10 days.

As for the most recent school statistics, Dr. Jackson said there were 13 positive COVID-19 cases reported for students the week of Dec. 13. The same week there were 90 students and five staff members excluded from school due to COVID-19 safety protocols. The percentage of quarantined students testing positive for COVID-19 the week of Dec. 13 was 2.2%.

He added that as of Jan. 1, the county’s overall positivity rate stood at 11.9%. As of Jan. 3, the rate remained at 11.9%.

In September, county school board members voted to make masks optional once the county’s COVID-19 positivity rate fell below 5%, which happened in October. Then, at their Nov. 4 meeting, members voted to remove the 5% metric and instead review other statistics in addition to the positivity rates.

After Dr. Jackson’s presentation, Ms. Statler asked if he planned to apply for N95 masks that Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday would be made available for school employees.

“We want our staff to feel safe,” she said.

Dr. Jackson said he does intend to apply for the N95 masks.

“We want to make them available to our staff,” he said.

 

Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.

(13) comments

drewski

Interesting headlines.

Health dept reports 3 more covid deaths wensday

Carteret Health Care tightens visitation restrictions amid COVID surge.

School board make unanimous vote to keep masks optional.

Is it just me or is there a disconnect here?

Always A Teacher

The irony: In the article...Board member Katie Statler, who made the motion to keep masks optional…and later in the article...Ms. Statler asked if he planned to apply for N95 masks that Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday would be made available for school employees.

“We want our staff to feel safe,” she said. I wonder...I guess the kids don't need to feel safe. You can't be on both sides of the fence at the same time unless you are on the fence.

drewski

Schools teach important lessons outside of class. Star athletes get preferential treatment, teachers do have favorites, and the important one here :

Your right to avoid the minor discomfort of a mask, is more important the the lives of people with underlying heath conditions, or who are elderly.

David Collins

Yes , a disconnect is always possible .

Here we go again ! Don’t ya just love it ?

Osprey

This decision was expected and disappointing. "Metrics" all are worse than a month ago. Political stance is the only metric that has remained stable.

Doc Epoch

I am fully vaccinated, boosted, constantly wear a N95 mask, and just tested positive for COVID-19. I am grateful for the protection my vaccines continue to provide...

og.mpeg

This is what happens when Fox News is the source of information these clowns are basing their decisions on.

BananaThis

Goodness gracious…. Masks are optional. It doesn’t say your child can’t wear a mask. You want them to wear one … have them wear one. You don’t want them to wear one then don’t. The end. It’s that simple.

Always A Teacher

Not that simple. You need to look at the BIG picture, not just a snapshot. Those without masks are much more likely to be shedding the virus to others if they have it or are asymptomatic. If a child has a grandparent or compromised person living with them, the danger of bringing home the virus increases. The board of education and you do not understand the workings of a virus and how it is transmitted. Unfortunately, the majority of the population thinks like you and the board without consequences to anyone else but yourself. We need to protect each other, period. We need to work together to put this virus to rest. But it is just not happening because of the lack of knowledge of the people in charge.

drewski

But it is just not happening because of the lack of knowledge of the people in charge.

Masks and shots were made political by you know who, now much too late 8n the game he is booed by some supporters for saying he had a booster.

The knowledge is readily available, sadly it is being ignored based on far right media misinformation/ manipulation.

NeroFiddles4PhotoOps

While you have that BIG picture out, perhaps you could enlighten us as to why places with the most stringent mask mandates in the country like Vermont, Michigan and New York are continuing to experience the highest infection rates, while places without them, like Florida for example, are experiencing the lowest? The magic of the mask as a single variable solution should work everywhere, shouldn’t it? Perhaps we can get Fauci to give the Chinese a grant to study that.

BananaThis

I have two immunologists in my family. I have one head of an icu in my family. I know plenty😘

drewski

Infection rates are determined by testing.

X% of ppl tested. Perhaps the rate difference is more folks being tested in Vermont then in fl?

Remember trump logic, slow down the testing to have fewer cases.

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