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Union County School Board decides to keep masks optional at schools

 A class session at Union County's Parkwood Middle School, where masks inside are optional.
Union County Public Schools
A class session at Union County's Parkwood Middle School, where masks inside are optional.

The Union County School Board voted to keep masks optional for students and staff. The 7-2 vote at Tuesday night’s meeting came after an hour of public comment from parents, teachers and others who spoke both in favor and in opposition of the move.

Ahead of the vote, Assistant Superintendent Jarrod McCraw said the school district was working closely with the county’s health department to identify and isolate students who test positive or have close contact with someone who tests positive.

“I want the public to know we provide seating charts, we provide information that can mine that data down to the positive case and who was seated within six feet of those students," McCraw said. “We provide that to Union County Public Health.”

As of last week, there were 225 coronavirus cases reported in Union County Public Schools, and more than 1,600 students and staff were staying home because they were either infected or had close contact.

Union County is one of a handful of mask-optional school districts in North Carolina.

It reached an agreement with county health officials last month to work together on quarantines. In that agreement, whichever body first learns of a COVID-19 case in students or school employees will notify the other. The school district will also give the health department information about who was likely in close contact inside schools when a case is identified. And the school district will enforce the county’s quarantine orders.

A new North Carolina law requires districts to vote on mask policies every month.

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Nick de la Canal is the host of Weekend Edition on Saturday/Sunday mornings, and a reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal
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.