39 NC K-12 districts are now mask optional
25 of the 39 voted in November to go mask optional
Heading into December, 39 North Carolina K-12 school districts are now mask optional. 25 of the 39 districts voted to go mask optional in November.
Here is the list of mask optional districts as of the week of Thanksgiving:
Hyde and McDowell have some stipulations with their mask optional status, as indicated by the green shading.
Hyde County Schools have made masks optional so far only for those who are vaccinated.
McDowell County Schools are making weekly decisions about masking based on a rolling average.
According to a Nov. 10 news release on the McDowell schools website, the district’s weekly decision will be “based on the 14-day rolling average of community spread within McDowell County and information provided by McDowell County Emergency Services.”
“The plan is to use the 14-day positivity rate to determine whether face coverings will be optional or required. I will review the data on Fridays and then make the announcement for the following week,” McDowell Superintendent Mark Garrett said “If the 14-day positivity rate is 5% or lower, face coverings will be optional. If the 14-day positivity rate is above 5%, then face coverings will be required. At present, the 14-day positivity rate is sitting at 4.2%. If this rate holds, then face coverings will be optional for the week of November 12.”
Per Senate Bill 684, districts are supposed to adopt a mask policy and then review it on a monthly basis.
Harnett, Lincoln, and Pender County school districts voted in September to allow masks to be optional.
Districts that voted in October to go mask optional included Alexander, Beaufort, Cabarrus, Cherokee, Macon, Rowan-Salisbury, Sampson, and Stanly.
Only Avery, Union, and Yancey County school districts started the 2021-22 school year as mask optional and have remained that way ever since.
Prior to the start of the 2021-22 school year, 64 of the state’s 115 districts had planned to be mask optional. That quickly changed following confusing briefings by Gov. Roy Cooper, resulting in 61 of those 64 districts reversing their decisions.
At a July 21 COVID briefing, Cooper said the state was not requiring masks in schools. Both he and N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) Secretary Mandy Cohen pointed to updates to the NC StrongSchools Toolkit, which they said aligned with CDC protocols for school masking.
Just 8 days later, at a July 29 COVID briefing, Cooper and Cohen reversed course, updating the NC StrongSchools Toolkit to recommend indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools regardless of vaccination status.
On Oct. 25, NCDHHS quietly edited the Frequently Asked Questions document associated with masking in K-12 school. New language was added tying the lifting of mask restrictions in schools to community transmission:
“Given that our student population is largely not yet vaccinated, face covering remain a critical tool for protecting children and keeping them safely in the classroom. NCDHHS recommends that schools base their mask requirements on levels of community transmission, as defined by the CDC. Community Transmission Levels are determined by two indicators- case rates and test percent positivity. If the two indicators are categorized in different transmission levels, the higher level is selected.”
The FAQ also made masking optional only for people who have been vaccinated:
“NCDHHS recommends schools continue to implement a universal face covering requirement if they are located in a county with high or substantial levels as defined by the CDC. When community transmission levels decline in your county to moderate or low levels for at least 7 consecutive days, school leaders can consider making face coverings optional for vaccinated individuals.”