BRUNSWICK COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) – As COVID-19 case numbers rise across southeastern North Carolina, masks are still optional in Brunswick County schools. The board voted unanimously Tuesday night to keep its current policy in place. Officials say the number of students missing class right now is not out of the ordinary.
“The total number of students that were out [Tuesday] for all purposes was 819, which is not atypical,” said Superintendent Dr. Jerry Oates. “That is not medical, that is all absences combined.”
When the board held its January vote on Tuesday night, the district had 55 active cases of COVID-19 reported with around 100 students in quarantine due to close contact with a positive case. As of Wednesday night, the district reports 81 positive cases and nearly 240 students in quarantine.
School board chair Steven Barger says his vote was based upon where the numbers stand.
“While our positivity rate was up, the number of absences in our school currently, because of quarantines and/or COVID cases are still in line with how it was prior to the Christmas vacation and, so, the decision was made to stick with the policy as written,” said Barger.
Per Governor Roy Cooper’s orders, public school boards are required to vote on their mask policies each month, but Barger says he thinks about it every day.
“My kids are school-age so I evaluate it daily,” Barger said. “I have first-hand knowledge of what’s going on at my own kids’ classrooms and my own kids’ schools here in Brunswick County.”
Barger says he wants his children, and other students, to be safe while having the ability to continue learning in-person.
“My concern as a parent is, the toolkit still requires the quarantine measures and, obviously, we’re going to have more kids in quarantine when masks aren’t being worn widespread,” Barger said. “While I am not a fan of the masking, I am a fan of kids being able to be in school, so when I start seeing the number of students increasing for outages, whether it be with COVID or from the quarantine, then that’s when I start reevaluating what we’re doing.”
Brunswick County School’s latest COVID-19 guidance can be found here.
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