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Iredell-Statesville Schools brings back mask mandate to keep more students in school

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has books to teach children about social distancing and wearing masks.
Nancy Pierce
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, which has consistently required masks, has lower quarantine rates than Iredell-Statesville Schools.

Iredell-Statesville Schools will bring back its mask mandate after winter break. The school board voted Monday to end the district’s mask-optional approach because a large number of students were being sent home after contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

Last week, for instance, 65 students tested positive and 570 had to quarantine because of exposure at school. North Carolina’s school safety rules allow more exposed students to stay in school if everyone wears face coverings.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is the only district in the Charlotte region that has consistently required masks this school year. On Tuesday it updated its COVID-19 dashboard to include quarantine numbers and delete other metrics, such as community spread measures.

Last week, CMS had just over 200 students test positive and just over 400 quarantined. That’s two quarantines for every positive case, compared with almost nine in Iredell-Statesville Schools.

And while CMS has almost seven times as many students as Iredell-Statesville, it had about three times as many COVID-19 cases among students last week. That would indicate the mask-optional district is seeing a higher level of COVID-19, not just quarantines.

Staff and students in Iredell-Statesville will have to mask up when classes resume Jan. 5, unless they have a medical waiver.

North Carolina lawmakers require school boards to vote monthly on mask requirements. The CMS board is expected to renew its mandate Tuesday night. Mecklenburg County still has an indoor mask mandate that includes schools.

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Updated: December 14, 2021 at 6:08 PM EST
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.