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WS/FCS, Alamance-Burlington Schools approve optional masks for students

School leaders voted on the measure Tuesday afternoon.

ALAMANCE COUNTY, N.C. — The Alamance-Burlington Schools' Board of Education voted to make masks optional effective immediately for students and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools voted to make them optional beginning Monday. 

Emotions were high at both meetings. Alamance-Burlington leaders voted on the measure in a special meeting Tuesday afternoon and were met with applause from the audience.  

For WSFCS, tensions ran high before the vote. The board called a recess because a man approached them during public comment. He was removed from the meeting and cited for resisting an officer.

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools will be mask optional beginning February 28.

It's not just public schools making the change. Charter schools are also reevaluating.

Mary Catherine Sauer is the principal at Revolution Academy. The school dropped mask requirements last week.

Charter schools don't have a district to answer to, they make decisions on their own while following guidance from state health officials.

"I know some that are considering it," Sauer said. "Most of them have to have board action. Because I had a mandate in place of our own, we've just followed the other mandates. That didn't require additional board action so we were able to move faster."

WFMY News 2's Grace Holland reached out to several Guilford County charter schools.

Greensboro Academy lifted their mask mandate Tuesday. Masks are optional for Summerfield Charter.

The Point College Prep and Leadership Academy still require them and Next Generation Academy will vote at its next board meeting.

Sauer said one teacher told her she's already noticed a different attitude among her students.

"She's getting more smiles and more positive activity from the students without wearing her mask so that's very encouraging," Sauer said.

The move follows as Guilford County Schools and Thomasville City Schools also voted to make masks optional for students and staff. It comes after North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper recently urged school districts and local governments to lift mask mandates. 

"I personally would like to see this become a choice for parents at this point," said Catherine Truitt, the North Carolina State Superintendent, before the Governor's recommendation. "We have such high rates of immunity and I think that a lot of parents have mask fatigue on behalf of their children and feel like they are ready to tolerate a higher baseline of transmission in order to take off the mask."

News 2 reached out to the Alamance-Burlington Association of Educators for a comment but did not hear back. 

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School's Board of Education plans to vote on a mask optional policy Tuesday. WS/FCS parent Rachel Dargis started a petition to make masks optional in the school district. 

"I felt like, to an extent, we were being portrayed as crazy anti-mask people and I don’t feel like we are," said Dargis before the WS/FCS board meeting Tuesday. "We just want to have a choice."

The petition had nearly 1000 signatures before the meeting.

"I was getting really frustrated feeling like our school board is supposed to represent us as parents and what’s in the best interest of our children and I felt very unheard (...) like they just don’t care," Dargis said.

News 2 also reached out to the Forsyth County of Association of Educators for their comment on the policy. 

"FCAE stands with our Education Team doing what is best for them," wrote Forsyth County Association of Educators president Val Thompson. "It is now a personal preference to mask or not mask."

Regardless of a board of education decision, masks will still be required on school buses per federal policy. Guilford County Schools said Tuesday they will continue to provide masks for bus riders if they forget to bring one. 

    

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