WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Masks were added to the list of preventative measures to stop COVID-19 from disrupting the school year at Columbus County Schools.
In an emergency meeting Friday morning, the school board reversed its decision to make masks optional in school, just days before the start of classes. Starting Monday, students and staff will have to wear masks on school property.
Superintendent Dr. Deanne Meadows said the district is looking to parents and students to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“We just we really need students and parents to make sure that to monitor for symptoms,” she said. “If they do have symptoms, do not come to school. If they’re fine and they feel good to come to school, we really would like for them to wear masks. We want them to social distance as much as possible.”
Hand sanitizer will also be widely available in the schools and classrooms.
If students do need to quarantine due to exposure, Meadows said they will not miss out on instructional time but it will be a detriment to learning.
“Because of last year, we are now one to one district,” Meadows explained. “The students will have a device and every teacher creates a Google classroom. So, their work their assignments are on online or are available online so they can do their work.
Meadows said that’s not ideal but it’s better than missing out altogether on assignments and learning.
“They’re missing the teacher’s instruction,” she said. “They’re missing the time of collaborating with their peers. The discussion that happens in class, which is really how you learn best, is by talking and explaining and critical thinking that happens in the classroom. That’s what they’re missing.”
She said it is vital that students and parents take precautions so students don’t have to quarantine at home.
When a student is exposed at school, parents will receive a call from their child’s teacher.
“It takes a lot of time and a lot of resources away from our staff,” she said. “When someone tests positive, we then have to go back and figure out who have they been around.”
The district is not mandating vaccines for staff and students who are eligible, but Meadows said vaccines are encouraged.
“We had vaccine clinics last week at our three traditional high schools and didn’t have quite as many people turn out as we had hoped,” she said. “We had 126 people get vaccinated, 35 of them were students, so it’s progress but we still need to continue to increase the number of people getting vaccinated.”
According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, 38 percent of the population in Columbus County is vaccinated with at least one dose; 33 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. Those numbers lag behind the statewide average.
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