Cumberland County Schools will have a mandatory mask mandate for students when they return to school on August 23, after a unanimous vote at the Board of Education meeting Tuesday night.
The Board voted unanimously to approve the mask requirement for at least the first month or so of school, as cases of COVID-19 infection continue to go back up in Cumberland County.
In a release, Cumberland County Schools said “The masking requirement is for everyone, regardless of vaccination status and applies to all schools and district facilities. Masks are also required on all public school transportation. Students will be able to take masks off while eating and drinking and outdoors as long as they are not in a crowded setting or participating in activities that involve close contact with others.”
“With all the conversation about mask and no mask, I remind people that we all live together in the community,” said Alicia Chisolm, Cumberland County Schools Board of Education Chair. “We had to adjust to fasten our seat belts. We had to adjust to not being able to smoke inside. You have to remember to drive on the right side of the road. We have to look at a better good for the total community.”
The Board has agreed to revisit the issue in September, as COVID-19 numbers change around the community. Current CDC guidelines are calling for school systems to get students back in schools if possible to do so safely, and they recommend masking by all students, teachers, staff and others, regardless of vaccination status.
“Since last September, when the ABC Collaborative suggested and said let’s open the schools back up, that is not the way we went,” Board member Susan Williams said. “The Collaborative now is saying to keep children in school and that’s been my goal since last September: Get children back in school, five days a week, with a teacher who can teach them. And I truly believe this is the best way to start. We always can amend this.”
Cumberland County Schools had already approved to have the students return to the classroom on normal schedules for the 2021-2022 school year, but had left open the chance of having some additional health and safety restrictions – like a mask mandate – in place as the situation dictated.
That came after a year of back and forth with numerous attempts to get students back in the classroom full time in 2020-2021 as the coronavirus pandemic drug out. The last delay ended up having students return to class on a modified basis on March 15, 2021.
A small group of parents held signs protesting outside of the Board of Education building, wanting students to have the choice to wear masks.
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