ALBEMARLE — In a special called meeting of the Stanly County Board of Education at 2 p.m. on Oct. 21, the board members voted to make masks optional. The change will go into effect on Monday, Oct. 25.
Before getting to the topic of the day, mandatory masking in schools, which has been hotly debated during the pandemic, Rep. Wayne Sasser (R-Stanly) swore in the new member, Dustin Lisk. Lisk was appointed last week by the Stanly County GOP to replace former board Chair Jeff Chance, who resigned only days earlier.
Once Lisk was sworn in and seated, Superintendent Jarrod Dennis went into the COVID-19 positive-test percentages, which the board was using as a barometer for when to lift the mandatory masking.
The board had earlier said that they would lift the mask mandate if the county’s percent-positive rate fell below 7.9% over a 14-day period. The current numbers from the county health department seemed to indicate this bar had been met.
“Currently, the Stanly County percent positive is below 7.9%, it was at 7.7 based on the metric I just gave you,” Dennis told the board. “And if you look at our internal numbers, and I don’t have them exactly right now, they’re even lower than they were at the last meeting — they’re low.”
Dennis went on to say that in terms of positive COVID cases within the district’s schools themselves, “we’re only looking at a positive or two at most schools, and some schools have none.”
He told the board that according to the parameters they had set earlier in the year, they are in the range to void the mandate for masking. But Dennis did warn the board that, because of the toolkit put in place by the state Department of Health and Human Services, getting rid of masking “could increase quarantines; it has increased them in other counties.”
Dennis then said that whether or not the board made masks optional, they would continue to be required during conveyance, like on school buses, because of federal requirements.
When Superintendent Dennis’ report was complete, Chair Glenda Gibson — who stepped into the role after the resignation of Chance — said, “At this time, board members, I would like to have a motion to move to make masks optional now that the 14-day percent positive is 7.9%, and I would like for this to be effective Monday, Oct. 25.”
The motion was made and seconded. There was no debate. In a voice vote, members unanimously voted to pass the motion, and the meeting was adjourned.