Carteret County Board of Education revisits health, wellness protocols; masks to become optional after positivity rate consistently drops below 5%


BEAUFORT, N.C. (WNCT) – The Carteret County Public School System’s Board of Education met on Thursday, September 23, in a special meeting session at Croatan High School to discuss health and wellness protocols and guidance related to COVID-19.

During the meeting, Vice Chair Brittany Wheatly made a motion to make masks optional once the county positivity rate consistently drops below 5 percent.

“My top priority is to keep our students and staff safe and to keep our students in class learning from our amazing teachers,” said Carteret County Public Schools Board of Education Chairman Clark Jenkins. “Our community has made it clear that they want our students in school and our Board is committed to safely doing just that.”

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) updated information regarding control measures in schools regarding isolation, quarantine, and exclusion on September 20, 2021. As noted in the update, “Isolation, Quarantine, and Exclusion for students and staff can be minimized by adopting the layered prevention strategies in the StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit. Numerous studies have shown that viral transmission in school settings can be very low if layered prevention strategies are in place.” Carteret County Public Schools utilize a layered prevention strategy including frequent wiping down of high-touch surfaces, wiping down classroom tables and desks when students are not in the room, sanitizing buses after bus runs, having hand sanitizer readily available throughout the school buildings, limiting visitor access, social distancing to the extent possible, and requiring face coverings for all students and staff.

As required by NCDHHS, school system staff will continue to notify the Carteret County Health Department of positive cases in the school system and will notify parents of required exclusions from school.

School staff members will no longer conduct contact tracing during lunch. Symptom-free close contacts who are masked will not be excluded from school unless they are directly contacted by the Carteret County Health Department.

The September 20, 2021, letter from NCDHHS states that “Quarantine and exclusion from in-person learning can be avoided for close contacts of a person with COVID-19 in the following circumstances:

• Staff, teachers, and students who are fully vaccinated and do not have symptoms do not need to quarantine or be excluded from school based on exposure.
• Students who were exposed by another student do not need to quarantine or be excluded from school if they do not have symptoms and face masks were being used appropriately by both the student with COVID-19 and the potentially exposed student at the time of the exposure.
• Staff, teachers, and students who have had a COVID-19 infection in the past 90 days and who do not have
symptoms do not need to quarantine or be excluded from school based on exposure.

People who do not meet the above exceptions to quarantine and exclusion must quarantine and the school must exclude those individuals from school in accordance with CDC recommendations and North Carolina law governing control measures.”

“Our staff, students, and exceptional team of nurses have done an overwhelmingly tremendous job at keeping our schools safe during the first few weeks of the school year,” said Superintendent Dr. Rob Jackson. “We cannot give enough credit to our nursing staff that has worked tirelessly to track, report, and assist our students and families throughout the pandemic. There is no shortage of heroes in our schools. While there is no certainty of what tomorrow will bring, we will be ready to face those challenges as they present themselves.”

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