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Iredell-Statesville Schools to keep mask mandate until end of year despite push from upset parents

Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 6:28 PM EDT
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IREDELL COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - Iredell-Statesville students and faculty will keep its mask mandate until the end of the school year, the district announced Tuesday.

This comes the day after a heated school board meeting where angry parents pushed for an end to the required mask mandate.

“In adherence with Section 2.11(b) of North Carolina Session Law 220-49, the guidance provided by both the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, and Governor Cooper’s Executive Orders, the Iredell-Statesville School District will continue to require students and staff to wear a mask during the school day for the remainder of this school year,” the school board said in a statement.

The district said it will accept mask waivers that are signed by a medical or mental health professional.

“If a child has an extenuating circumstance that inhibits their ability to wear a mask and cannot provide a waiver from a medical or mental health provider, the child’s school will meet with the parent to evaluate and discuss the circumstances on a case by case basis,” the district’s statement read.

Iredell-Statesville Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff James released this statement:

“Iredell-Statesville Schools are proud to be back in school five days a week for grades K-12. We have worked hard to get students back onto our campuses. We have learned over the last 14 months that solid leadership and a clear COVID safety protocol have been the key to our ability to stay in school. Quarantine rules as it relates to six feet of social distancing have been difficult to manage, and we’ve had to quarantine hundreds of students over the last months. However, we are happy to report that, although we have had COVID in our community, we are not spreading COVID in our schools.

“We feel strongly that children need routine, social interaction, and academic rigor. Wearing a mask for a few more weeks allows us to finish the school year with some level of normalcy and will help ensure many students are available to attend important end-of-school-year events, like graduations, class parties, and proms. Our Governor and NC Legislature have spoken, and we intend to continue to follow the guidelines under which we are allowed to return to school face-to-face.”

North Carolina law, 2020-49 requires all schools in the state to be in compliance with ‘all required COVID-19 guidance issued by the state board of education, department of public instruction and department of health and human services.’ Schools have to follow the Strong Schools NC Public Health (K-12) Toolkit, which requires masks.

“We are grateful to our 2,500 employees and 20,000 students and families who have put their trust in us to keep them safe,” James said. “We have found that our families have vast opinions on masking protocols. We realize that we simply can’t make everyone happy. At this point, our primary goal is to finish the school year with gratitude, grace, and flexibility. We look forward to a full return in the fall of 2021, and we are hopeful that we will have the opportunity to do so unmasked.”

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