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Avery County School Board approves mask mandate for most students

The board voted 3-2 to require students in grades third through 12th to start wearing face masks on Oct. 6.
Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 11:36 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 29, 2021 at 11:37 AM EDT
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NEWLAND, N.C. (WBTV) – The Avery County Board of Education reversed course Tuesday night and will now mandate masks for most students starting next month.

The board voted 3-2 to require students in grades third through 12th to start wearing face masks on Oct. 6.

Last month, the Avery County School Board voted unanimously to leave the question of children wearing masks to school up to their parents. The vote was to recommend masks for kids but not mandate them.

The board’s Sept. 28 decision leaves Union and Lincoln counties as the only area school districts that have not mandated face masks, leading to controversy in the respective districts.

In Lincoln County, the debate over masks in schools landed in a courtroom Tuesday afternoon.

A group of parents, which include students, are suing the Lincoln County School District over its optional mask policy.

They argue the move would make learning inside the classroom unsafe. They want to keep masks mandatory in the district.

Last week, Union County Public Schools responded to a letter from the Union County Public Health director that demanded the school district to begin following COVID-19 protocols or legal actions could be taken.

The letter from Public Health director Dennis Joyner was sent on Sept. 24, amid COVID clusters at Union County Public Schools after they stopped contact tracing and quarantining for non-positive students.

In a lettered response obtained by WBTV, UCPS superintendent Dr. Andrew Houlihan wrote that he and his staff would “continue to provide information requested to support you and your staff and these responsibilities.”

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