By ANGELA FARR KING
On February 17, Governor Roy Cooper provided an update on the state’s COVID-19 metrics and trends, saying that “as North Carolina’s COVID-19 metrics continue to move in the right direction and with vaccines widely available, schools and local governments are encouraged to end their mask mandates.”
After this update from the governor, Alexander County Schools called a special board meeting for Tuesday, February 22, to address their own COVID-19 policies. The meeting was opened with the Pledge of Allegiance led by board member Brigette Rhyne.
There was a crowd of people outside the ACHS Auditorium with signs protesting masking of students. They were clearly on the offensive and argued with police officers at the door about wearing masks into the meeting. (It’s important to note that masks have been required at all board meetings for months due to Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Hefner battling cancer.) Several in the group tried to enter unmasked and were met with law enforcement agents telling them they had to stay in the lobby if they refused to wear masks.
As soon as the meeting began, board member Harry Schrum made a lengthy motion that addressed several aspects of COVID-19 mandates, including:
• Masks will be optional, except on buses because busing must follow federal mandates.
• There will be no more contact tracing so no one will have to miss class due to coming in contact with COVID.
• Notifications of COVID cases will be posted weekly on the Alexander County Schools COVID Dashboard by the number of cases per school.
• When the federal mandate for masks on buses ends, there will be no need for a special called board meeting to end wearing masks on buses in Alexander County.
• The “Test to Stay” policy, approved by the board at the last meeting, is to be rescinded.
The motion passed unanimously and these guidelines are effective beginning Wednesday, February 23. Please note that Alexander County Head Start and NC PreK classes will still be required to wear masks because Head Start is federally funded and there are Head Start students in NC PreK classes as well. This means these must follow federal guidelines on masking.
Board member Marty Loudermilt stated that if any student or staff member wishes to have an N95 mask due to immune system compromise, they can request one from the school system as the system has a large supply of masks.