Students could have the opportunity this school year to get rid of masks and “release smiles” if a bill, currently under consideration in the Senate, is enacted this summer.
But while local school districts eagerly wait, the Onslow County Board of Education has proactively discussed their next decision if and when the state gives them the authority.
At their Tuesday night BOE meeting, members unanimously favored the idea of ââpersonal choice when it comes to students and staff wearing masks for the 2021-2022 school year.
In a statement read by President Bob Williams at the meeting, he said: âThe Onslow County School Board believes it is time to develop Covid 19 protocols that reflect the health conditions of our community and our communities. schools. The Board believes that health decisions for our staff and students are personal decisions between them and their physicians.
Following the statement, Williams and the board discussed what those protocols should be when students resume on August 23. Staff will develop the protocols and further discussion is expected to take place at the next board meeting on August 1, when the board will review and possibly approve.
One protocol discussed concerned Senate Bill 173, passed by the North Carolina House of Representatives on Wednesday, June 23, giving local school leaders the flexibility to decide whether or not students and staff will be required to wear face coverings during the year school 2021-2022.
The bill’s next stop is in the Senate and if passed, it will travel to Gov. Roy Cooper’s office to await his signature or veto.
However, Williams made a strong statement Tuesday night, a statement that gives parents and their children more room to breathe.
“We are moving forward anyway, with or without the bill, to develop our Covid-19 protocols. It is important to give our community the feeling of understanding that our hands have been tied for about 15 months,” said Williams said. âI hope our board of directors agrees with me that we move forward and have our local board make decisions for our community.
In a school district of about 27,000 students, Onslow County schools have seen five clusters of reportable positive cases since March 2020.
The NCDHHS defines a COVID-19 cluster “as five or more positive COVID-19 cases in a setting within 14 days of each other, which are epidemiologically linked.”
While specific protocols were not directly discussed at Tuesday’s meeting, some clues were dropped when each board member commented on the next step in the process.
Going beyond the discussion of a mask warrant, Williams went on to say things such as social distancing, use and cleaning of facilities, and others will be considered when the board makes its decision to ” eliminate or adopt protocols.
The quarantine process for someone who comes in contact with a positive case but tests negative (14 days), or possibly following flu protocols are all options before the summer.
Board member Ken Reddic added that Onslow Virtual School (OVS) will remain an option for students who thrive in a virtual setting, while Melissa Oakley spoke outside the meeting of the possibility of adapting better protocols for a canceled sporting event.
Richlands Southwest Football Game– Friday canceled due to positive COVID-19 test
In April, a Richlands football player tested positive for the virus, forcing the entire team to adopt COVID-19 protocols that again canceled their last Southwest Onslow game of the year.
The game was never made up as the NCHSAA State Football Playoffs began the following week.
Concerned parents continue in absentia
Board members are aware that some students and staff will continue to disguise themselves, but most will lose them. Those who relieve themselves are also those who have made their voices heard during this process.
Onslow resident Barbara Waters spoke about the negative effects when children wear masks at the last BOE meeting on June 1. As the grandmother of a current student, Waters explained the lack of concrete evidence or evidence to show that masks protect children from COVID-19.
Instead, Waters said the masks presented hygiene issues, anxiety and inspired fear.
âWe started with two weeks to flatten the curve and here we are a year later still unwilling to unmask our kids. Why don’t we follow the science? It’s a crime to keep the kids masked, eight, nine, up to 12 hours a day in some cases. “
Angela Todd, a parent and grandparent of Onslow students, was the only public speaker to address the council on Tuesday about the mask’s mandate.
Todd’s synopsis mirrored that of Waters, claiming that requiring children to wear masks for seven to ten hours a day is child abuse.
âMasks hurt children developmentally, emotionally and physically. They learn about the world around them and alter social interactions with the world around them at an important point in their lives,â Todd added , moved, who also cited Bill and his personal experience as detergents for wearing the
State health officials remain cautious
Senate Bill 173 passed with 66-44 House approval.
Principals for kindergarten to grade 12 students in public and private schools have until August 1 to vote on a face cover mandate for the first month of the school year. All districts that will continue to require masks throughout the year are also expected to vote monthly on continuing the policy.
If Cooper signed the bill, he would still have the power to issue a mask warrant to individual schools if cases started to increase, a protocol Oakley said Onslow would most likely also adopt.
Cooper’s ongoing state of emergency requires students to wear masks in schools at least until the end of July.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services officials remain committed to upholding the mandate of masks in accordance with CDC guidelines – which currently recommends that masks be worn in school as well as in other settings that serve children such as daycares and camps.
Catie Armstrong, spokesperson for NCDHHS, told the Daily News in an email: âWe still have a large number of North Carolinians who are not vaccinated, most of whom are children. We must prioritize the protection of children who have not yet had a chance to be vaccinated or are not yet eligible because they are under the age of 12. “
Pfizer is the only vaccine licensed for children 12 years of age and older. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are for adults 18 and over only.
DHHS trends continue to move in the right direction, according to Armstrong, but the state continues to see unvaccinated people hospitalized and dying.
More importantly, there is an emergence of a Delta variant causing major concerns for DHHS for people who are not vaccinated. Some studies suggest that people infected with this variant are at a higher risk of hospitalization and although it is rapidly increasing nationwide, cases have been confirmed in North Carolina, Armstrong continued.
“We will continue to review the data to guide our decisions and re-evaluate our advice if anything changes on the part of the CDC.”
Currently, Onslow statistics show 1,126 children between the ages of 12 and 17 who are fully immunized, according to the NCDHHS website. Another 1,490 children received at least one dose of the vaccine.
With the next meeting not taking place until August, the BOE could call an emergency session in July to speed up the masking protocol if the bill becomes law.
Journalist Trevor Dunnell can be contacted by email at [email protected] Please consider supporting local journalism by signing up for a digital subscription for as little as $ 1 per month. JDNews.com. Subscribe now