By Michelle Wagner | Outer Banks Voice on August 27, 2021
With 11 positive COVD-19 cases and 140 quarantines in county schools in the first five days of the new school year, the Currituck County Board of Education voted unanimously on Aug. 27 to reverse its July vote and mandate masks in its buildings effective Monday Aug. 30. The mask mandate will apply to indoor school events as well.
The board’s special meeting to revisit the masking policy was held virtually. A key argument for going to universal masking was fear over COVID transmission and quarantines removing students from the classroom.
“With it just being the first week of school, and for us to have 140 students quarantined, to me that’s just a snapshot into how this thing is gonna snowball,” Board Chair Karen Etheridge asserted. “I want to get [students] back in the classroom, and if it takes putting masks on every student, then I’m in favor of that because we cannot continue to have our students’ learning in jeopardy.”
The board voted following a presentation by Superintendent Matthew Lutz, who made the recommendation that the board reverse its earlier vote that allowed masks to be optional. Citing that on average, students are quarantined for 10 days, he said that the current quarantines amount to 1,400 instructional days for the current 140 students who are now quarantined.
Following the vote, Etheridge stated that, “In the interest of our children, we have voted to keep the students engaged in in-person learning while wearing masks.”
In neighboring Dare County, the Board of Education will meet on Sept. 1 to revisit its decision earlier this month to also allow mask wearing to be optional in schools.