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CMS Board to require all students, staff to wear masks

The special meeting took place July 30.
Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 8:13 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 30, 2021 at 6:50 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board passed a policy Friday adopting the superintendent’s recommendation to require mask-wearing for all students, staff and visitors, regardless of vaccination status.

“This decision aligns with local and state guidance, as well as national guidelines, which address the Delta variants of COVID-19,” said Elyse Dashew, chair of the Board of Education, in a press release. “The infection numbers in our county are cause for serious concern – and significant precautions to protect our students and staff.”

On Thursday, WBTV learned that Superintendent Earnest Winston sent a memo to board members ahead of the discussion and vote.

Wintson’s memo asked board members to extend mask requirements for all students and staff, following updated federal and state guidelines that urge school districts to continue requiring masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The memo recommended that CMS implement “universal face-covering requirements for all students, staff, volunteers, and visitors inside CMS facilities for the 2021-2022 school year.”

CMS is now one of the few local school districts to make masks not optional.

“The Delta variant is causing alarm for public health officials and medical professionals. It’s more contagious. It’s apparently more dangerous in terms of severity,” Winston said in a release. “Infection rates around the country, in our state and in our area are rising rapidly. Hospitalizations are likewise increasing at rapid rates. Staff and student health and safety are our highest priority. For that reason, we made the recommendation, and our Board supported and voted for it.”

The recommendation suggests that requirements should be reviewed at the end of each academic quarter or when local metrics and evolving guidance suggest that safety protocols, including using face coverings, should be revised.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday recommended people wear masks in kindergarten through 12th-grade schools.

“The CDC recommends that everyone in K-12 schools wear a mask indoors, including teachers, staff, students and visitors, regardless of vaccination status,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky in a briefing. “Children should return to full-time, in-person learning in the fall with proper prevention strategies in place.”

Last week, North Carolina leaders said all students and staff in K-8 classrooms should be wearing masks indoors regardless of vaccination status while students and staff at high schools should wear masks if they’re unvaccinated.

CMS previously said staff would discuss this guidance and other recommendations provided by leading health professionals and organizations as they finalize decisions related to the opening of school for the upcoming year.

“As we approach the new school year, our commitment is to provide as many students the opportunity to learn in-person every day as possible. Keeping students and staff healthy is our highest priority as we consider how best to operate as we open our buildings for 2021-2022,” CMS said in a previous statement

CMS officials said the policy will be reviewed every quarter.

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