First Day of School: Masks optional in Iredell-Statesville, required in Cabarrus

Published: Aug. 23, 2021 at 5:25 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 23, 2021 at 5:47 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Several school districts began classes with in-person learning today, and different districts have different rules when it comes to COVID-19 protocols.

In Iredell-Statesville Schools masks are optional for the new school year. The decision to make masks optional in ISS came during a called meeting of the Board of Education in late July.

“Masks are optional in the Iredell-Statesville Schools as of this morning, but if we have significant spread we will have to address that,” said Dr. Boen Nutting of ISS. “Our number one priority is making sure children had an opportunity to be in school. We know that being in school, in a classroom, socially interacting with other students is the most important thing for us at this point. We don’t want to spread the virus, but we certainly don’t want to send children home again like we did last year.”

During an Open House last week at Oakwood Middle and IB World School in Statesville, some students and parents were wearing masks, others were not.

“I’m excited about seeing our kids everyday.” said Principal Carrie Tulbert. “I’m excited about finding a new normal and what we’re doing in our post-pandemic, or still kind of the after-effects of a pandemic. I’m excited about opening our renovated building. This is the first time that we will have instruction in this building and it’s been renovated for a year, and we have a new name and a new look about us, so there’s a physical excitement as well as just an emotional and mental excitement that everyone is feeling.”

In Cabarrus County Schools masks are required to be worn by students and staff inside school facilities and on buses. The Board of Education had originally decided to make masks optional, but a sharp rise in cases led to a called meeting of the BOE last Monday night and a vote to require masks.

New superintendent Dr. John Kopicki, who was sworn in earlier in the meeting, told the board that he favored the mask mandate: “I am going to recommend to the board that I think we begin the school year masked. I think it’s the best way to go, I think it’s the most efficient way to go, most importantly, I think with everything rising and the unknown, because we really don’t know, I think the charge that keeps coming back to me that our job #1 is to keep kids safe.”

Kopicki added that he believes that the best research shows that masking does reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“We felt it would be best to start the school year masked and hopefully, in time, get back to class truly without being masked,” Kopicki told WBTV.

The largest school in the district is Cox Mill High School with more than 1700 students. Principal Andrew Crook told WBTV how he would define a successful first day of school: “I think seeing a large number of students here, full house and all of our classrooms, that’s when I’m going to know it’s a successful day and knowing that every child got here safely, left here safely, with a smile on their face even though it’s beneath the mask, that’s how I’ll know it’s a great day.”

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