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Union County School Board votes to keep masks optional for students and staff

Union County Public Schools remains one of the only local districts keeping masks optional in schools. A motion to require face masks in schools failed 5-4 in a Sept. 7 board meeting.
Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 2:53 PM EDT
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UNION COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - The Union County School Board voted 7-2 to keep masks optional for students and staff on Tuesday night.

This is a meeting that was already planned on the school board’s schedule.

Union County Public Schools remains one of the only local districts keeping masks optional in schools. A motion to require face masks in schools failed 5-4 in a Sept. 7 board meeting.

In late August, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed Senate Bill 654 K-12 COVID-19 Provisions, a wide-ranging bill that covers multiple areas concerning schools and provisions related to COVID-19.

Section 10 of the bill states that for the 2021-22 school year, all public schools shall adopt a policy - whether optional or required - regarding the use of face coverings by employees and students.

The bill says school districts need to vote at least once a month on whether the face-covering policy should be modified.

Union County Public Schools has been the center of criticism over the past few months due to their decision to keep masks optional but also due to a previous controversial decision to end contact tracing and quarantining.

Since then, the Union County Board of Education approved a motion to recognize quarantines of students and staff who are considered close contacts of positive COVID-19 cases, in accordance with state law.

According to the motion, the school board will continue to follow its legal obligations of reporting positive cases to Union County Public Health and provide relevant information to county health officials. Additionally, Union County Public Schools will require students who are symptomatic or positive for COVID-19 to stay home.

Union County Public Health and Union County Public Schools have also since agreed to a memorandum of understanding regarding the process of identifying and excluding students and staff who test positive or are a close contact of COVID-19.

The agreement came after Union County Public Health sent a letter demanding that the school district began following COVID-19 protocols or legal actions could be taken.

Community members are expected to gather before the 7 p.m. board of education meeting. A local petition called UCPS Board of Education: Resign has gained more than 5,000 signatures in two weeks.

Many parents were protesting outside the school prior to the meeting.

Parents protesting outside UCPS before Tuesday's meeting
Parents protesting outside UCPS before Tuesday's meeting(WBTV)

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