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Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools' Board of Education approves mask mandate for students, staff and visitors

School board members said they will reassess the mask mandate at the end of the first quarter.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools' Board of Education voted Wednesday night to approve the mask mandate for students, staff and visitors. The mask mandate is for those 5 years old and older.  

School board members said they will reassess the mask mandate at the end of the first quarter.

“Students need to be in schools with their teachers and peers”, Superintendent Tricia McManus said. “It is my goal to have as many students in school as possible, safely. I visited summer schools where all the students were wearing masks and the learning they were doing was amazing. We have worked closely with healthcare partners, local health providers, followed national and state trends and monitored the latest information on COVID cases in Forsyth County and we feel this is the safest, most responsible way to return to school.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed course on Tuesday recommending even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the delta variant of the coronavirus is fueling infection surges.

The CDC also recommends indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors at schools nationwide, regardless of vaccination status.

Guilford County Schools announced Tuesday night they voted in favor of the mask mandate requirement for everyone on campus. However, to mandate makes for everyone on campus but they plan to revisit that policy every ten weeks.

Before the meeting started, there were two groups in front of the WS/FCS Education Building with signs. Both groups had very different opinions on masks in schools come this fall.

Several parents told WFMY they are all for masks, some others spoke out saying they disagree or they think it should be up to the parents. 

"I don't want to have to go through what we did last year, again, and I think the best way to go forward is to just say everybody mask up," Kara Larrabee WS/FCS parent said. "It's not a hardship." 

"I think each of us, parents, in general, can do their research and they can decide for their own children if masks are a fit for their family and their beliefs or if it isn’t," Wendy Shoemaker WS/FCS parent said.

The meeting started at 5:30 p.m. and on the agenda, there was time for public comment. More than thirty people signed up to speak. 

The WS/FCS Board Vice-Chair, Linda Hayes said she thinks it is important for parents to be involved in the decision.

"I think everybody I’ve heard from wants the best decision for the children and that’s what we care about most, what is best for our kids," Hayes said.

The Board of Education voted 6-3 to approve the mask requirement. Board member Dana Caudill Jones voted against the requirement but now asks parents for patience.

"If I had a small child I would be extremely frustrated and probably look for other options for those first nine weeks as well," Jones said. "We have a great school district here in Forsyth County and I hope that they don't give up on us."

Dr. McManus said her recommendation is based on data and advice from health experts, saying masking can prevent disruptions to in-person learning should a student test postive.

"If both students have on the mask, the other one would not have to quarantine unless they had symptoms. That was a huge factor in our decision because we want kids in school," McManus said.