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Union County School Board Makes Masks Optional, Gives Superintendent Raise

Masked students at Union County's Wesley Chapel Elementary School in August.
Ann Doss Helms
Masked students are seen at Union County's Wesley Chapel Elementary School in August 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Union County school board voted unanimously Tuesday to make face coverings optional for students and employees, effective Aug. 1.

The vote came after months of hearing public comments contending that it should be up to parents to decide whether their children wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Speakers said they believe the masks are not effective and may be harmful.

However, some speakers have also urged the district to follow science and keep a mask mandate as long as it’s recommended by health officials.

Last week the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that all unvaccinated children and adults continue to wear masks in schools. North Carolina health officials are expected to update COVID-19 safety rules for schools next week.

First Raise In Five Years

The board also unanimously approved a $20,000 raise for Superintendent Andrew Houlihan. That brings his salary to about $253,216 a year.

Board members said Houlihan has gotten no raises since he started working for the district in 2016. They praised the work he did during the challenges of the pandemic and extended his contract through June 2025. The raise comes to 8.6%.

Seven cabinet-level staff members got the same contract extension and raises of $7,500 a year. They also have not had raises since 2016, board members said.

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Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.