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Union County School Board decides to keep masks optional at schools

 A class session at Union County's Parkwood Middle School, where masks inside are optional.
A class session at Union County's Parkwood Middle School, where masks inside are optional.

The Union County School Board voted to keep masks optional for students and staff. The 7-2 vote at Tuesday night’s meeting came after an hour of public comment from parents, teachers and others who spoke both in favor and in opposition of the move.

Ahead of the vote, Assistant Superintendent Jarrod McCraw said the school district was working closely with the county’s health department to identify and isolate students who test positive or have close contact with someone who tests positive.

“I want the public to know we provide seating charts, we provide information that can mine that data down to the positive case and who was seated within six feet of those students, " McCraw said. “We provide that to Union County Public Health .”

As of last week, there were 225 coron avirus cases reported in Union County Public Schools, and more than 1,600 students and staff were staying home because they were either infected or had close contact.

Union County is one of a handful o f mask-optional school districts in North Carolina.

It reached an agreement with county health officials last month to work together on quarantines. In that agreement, whichever body first learns of a COVID-19 case in students or school employees will notify the other. The school district will also give the health department information about who was likely in close contact inside schools when a case is identified. And the school district will enforce the county’s quarantine orders.

A new North Carolina law requires districts to vote on mask policies every month.

Copyright 2021 WFAE

WFAE's Nick de la Canal can be heard on public radio airwaves across the Charlotte region, bringing listeners the latest in local and regional news updates. He's been a part of the WFAE newsroom since 2013, when he began as an intern. His reporting helped the station earn an Edward R. Murrow award for breaking news coverage following the Keith Scott shooting and protests in September 2016. More recently, he's been reporting on food, culture, transportation, immigration, and even the paranormal on the FAQ City podcast. He grew up in Charlotte, graduated from Myers Park High, and received his degree in journalism from Emerson College in Boston. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal
Ann Doss Helms covers education for WFAE. She was a reporter for The Charlotte Observer for 32 years, including 16 years on the education beat. She has repeatedly won first place in education reporting from the North Carolina Press Association and won the 2015 Associated Press Senator Sam Open Government Award for reporting on charter school salaries.