RANDOLPH COUNTY — A group of residents in Randolph County were met with a sharp rebuke from the school board’s chairman after they spoke in favor of removal of Superintendent Stephen Gainey.

Gainey has drawn the ire of some parents by following up with the county’s contact tracing procedures and maintaining mask requirements through the effective date of Nov. 15, when the county made masks optional on school property. After multiple residents called for the resignation of Gainey during a November public forum, Chairman Gary Cook defended Gainey, saying verbal attacks on the superintendent were inappropriate.

“This is when I really feel the need to say you don’t have a clue, man,” Cook said. “You don’t have a clue what goes on in this school system. … I’ll defend this school system, and this superintendent. I don’t always agree with him, but I’ll talk it out. I don’t get up here and bash him. He doesn’t deserve that. He wouldn’t get up in front of you and bash you, so I’m tired of hearing him getting bashed. That’s where I’m at; I’ve had enough of it.”

The face covering policy was amended by virtue of a vote earlier this month to make masks optional district wide. Areas covered by federal law are unaffected by Randolph County Schools policy, such as on buses, where students are required to wear face coverings.

School principals are also still required to report incidence of COVID-19 cases to the health department and students must continue to stay home who test positive. State legislation dictates that school boards must determine monthly how it moves forward with mask mandates. Senate Bill 654, which was signed into law earlier this year, requires that each school district adopt a mask policy and to revisit that policy every 30 days.

When asked directly by residents who questioned board members during open session whether vaccines would later be mandated, multiple board members denied any desire to be part of such a mandate. Cafeteria policies existing prior to Nov. 15 will remain in place at this time, Cook said, due to them being high-traffic areas.

“When we started this journey back in August, the big thing was mask optional,” Cook said. “We are mask optional now. A lot of other school systems are not. It comes down to the health department stepping up to the plate on some things and assisting us more than they have before, where our superintendent and our school system can get back to doing what they’re supposed to do, and that’s what’s good for kids.”

Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at dkennedy@atnonline.net.

Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at dkennedy@atnonline.net.

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