Union County school board decides to keep masks optional despite thousands of students in quarantine

Union County remains one of the last districts in the WBTV-viewing area keeping face masks optional.
Published: Sep. 7, 2021 at 8:32 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2021 at 11:43 PM EDT
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UNION COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - The Union County Public School Board has decided to keep masks optional in schools despite thousands of students currently in quarantine within the district due to COVID-19.

A motion to require face masks in schools failed 5-4 in Tuesday night’s board meeting.

During the school board meeting, board members looked at quarantine guidelines and protocols, including face masks, which are not currently required in school buildings.

The nearly four-hour meeting started at 7 p.m. and included an opportunity for public comment. Several members of the community spoke during the meeting.

Union County remains one of the last districts in the WBTV-viewing area keeping face masks optional.

There are over 5,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade who are currently in quarantine. That’s about 12% of all students and almost half are elementary students.

Related: More than 5,000 quarantined after 367 test positive for COVID-19 in Union County Schools

Meanwhile, roughly 200 staff members are also quarantined. As far as cases, there are 367 confirmed positive cases among students and staff, according to the district’s COVID-19 dashboard.

Last week, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed a bill that allows districts to decide if and when to move to remote learning if needed.

The bill says a public school unit will need to report any shift by a school or classroom from in-person to temporary remote instruction to the Department of Public Instruction within 72 hours of the shift and would return to in-person instruction as soon as personnel are available, or the required quarantines are complete.

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