NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) — Craven County Schools’ Board of Education voted Thursday night to update its mask mandate, making them optional for staff and students.
The board’s vote was 6-1. The optional mask mandate goes into effect Friday.
The school system had required masks for students and staff due to the increase in COVID-19 cases. However, with the number of cases decreasing, it has become safer to make masks optional.
School officials said from Nov. 5-10, the Craven County district had a total of nine positive cases among students and staff and 181 quarantines. Earlier this week, Craven County Schools Superintendent Wendy Miller recommended to the board that masks be made optional.
The board chose to postpone the vote until Thursday in order to hear from the public. Before Thursday’s meeting, some parents rallied outside for the mask mandate to be removed.
“That means they would be able to see their classmates and their teachers’ face all day. they would actually get to see their teacher read to them without wearing a mask,” said Heather McManus. “I have a kindergartener and that’s essential.”
“Now that they have the vaccine able to those who want to take it, why are kids still being masked, it doesn’t make sense to me,” Amanda Leung said.
Many parents had hoped the board would make masks optional at last month’s board meeting. However, board members said in October they would extend the mask mandate and approach it again in November.
Due to state law that requires counties to access the COVID-19 situation each month, the board will continue to check with the health department and other officials to gauge whether the optional mask mandate can remain or if steps would need to be taken to return to a mask mandate.