Alamance-Burlington school board members are scheduled to hold a special-called meeting at 4:00 p.m. tomorrow afternoon (Tuesday, February 22), to discuss and vote on whether to keep in place an existing policy that requires universal masking in all ABSS facilities and on school buses.
During a press conference Thursday afternoon, N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper encouraged schools and local governments to end their mask mandates, though he urged schools to keep face covering requirements in place until Friday, March 7.
Fewer than half of the state’s 115 public school systems are still requiring face masks to be worn inside school building, according to multiple news reports.
As of Friday, 51 school systems had mask mandates, and 64 school systems were mask-optional, according to the North Carolina School Boards Association (NCSBA). Twenty-three public school systems adopted mask-optional policies between February 11 and February 18, according to the NCSBA.
In nearby and surrounding counties, Guilford County school board members are scheduled to hold a special meeting Monday night to consider making face coverings in schools optional, effective immediately. The Orange County school board is also scheduled to meet Monday night to discuss lifting the requirement. Chatham County schools announced it will make masks optional in schools, starting March 7, in keeping with the governor’s suggested timeframe.
Meanwhile, the state’s largest school system, Wake County public schools, had been scheduled to vote Tuesday on the mask mandate.
However, Wake County school officials subsequently announced that face coverings would become optional “soon” but gave no specific date for the change, multiple news outlets reported.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board, which represents the state’s second-largest public school system, is also scheduled to meet tonight to vote on whether to keep its mask mandate in place.
All North Carolina public school systems have been required to vote monthly on whether to require face masks in schools, under legislation that the General Assembly passed and the governor signed last August.
ABSS school board members have consistently voted 4-3 to require face coverings in schools and on buses since the school year began in August. School board members Ryan Bowden, Sandy Ellington-Graves, and Donna Westbrooks have consistently voted against the requirement; board members Wayne Beam, Allison Gant, Tony Rose, and Patsy Simpson have consistently voted against.
Subsequent legislation passed by the General Assembly last month, the “Free the Smiles Act,” would leave it to parents to decide whether their children should wear masks in schools. That bill, which passed the state house 76-42 and the senate 28-17, was forwarded to the governor last Thursday.