Masks on for a month: School board makes decision, reserves right to change vote early
Published 9:35 am Thursday, February 10, 2022
By Mike Barnhardt
Davie Schools students will be required to wear masks in school until early March.
Members of the board of education made that decision last week on a 5-2 vote, with Lori Smith and David Carroll voting against it.
The vote came after discussion about the options that were sometimes confusing, even to board members, who acknolwedged that at least one of the rules didn’t make sense.
But the rules – sent down by the state and local health departments and ABC Collaborative – have to be followed, said Superintendent Jeff Wallace.
“We’re told exactly what we have to do,” Wallace said.
State law requires the board to make a decision on masking monthly. The next meeting is scheduled for March 7.
Board member Dub Potts made the motion to keep masks required, saying it is a short month with teacher workdays; and if numbers change quickly enough, the board could call a special meeting to reconsider the decision.
The timing of that special meeting concerned board member Wendy Horne. Law requires a 48-hour public notice for any special meeting. She asked if weekends would count, and board attorney, Jill Wilson, said they would not. Horne then asked if a meeting could be called for on a Friday and held Tuesday. Wilson said Wednesday would be the appropriate day.
“That’s better than 30 days,” Horne said. “In 30 days, who knows what the tool kit is going to say? Honestly, I was leaning toward staying the course where we’re at, but every week … we need to see where we’re at with numbers. As soon as we can get these kids out of masks, we need to do it.”
The volunteer testing program could also run into some problems. It exists – with parents’ permission – for students in certain situations to be quarantined or receive a negative test result. Lori Dingler, head school nurse, questioned whether the schools have enough staff to do this, although difficult to determine without knowing the number of students to be tested. Staff to complete those tasks right now can’t be found, she said.
Recently at Davie High, her staff had 24 students to test in one morning. It took three people to complete the task.
Board members agreed the goal is to keep as many studens in the classrooms as possible. Board chair Clint Junker thanked the members for a respectful discussion.
Last Tuesday, 36 students had tested positive for the virus, as well as 10 staff members. A total of 73 students were in quarantine.
Last November, when masks were optional, 19 students and five staff members had tested positive, with 81 in quarantine. That was before the Omicron variant, Wallace said.
“But we have seen a sharp decline over the past week or so,” he said.
With masks required, Wallace said asympotamatic students who come in contact with one who tested positive would not have to be quarantined under new rules. With masks optional, that student would have to be quarantined.
Countywide, the number of cases continues to decline, with 608 positive cases on Feb. 7, down from 770 a week prior.