RANDOLPH COUNTY — The Randolph County Board of Education changed course a week into the new academic year and implemented a mask mandate after a spike in COVID-19 cases, the second area school system to reverse its initial decision to make masks optional.
During an emergency meeting Sunday afternoon, the Randolph school board instituted a mask requirement effective with classes Monday.
The reversal from the board’s initial decision to start the new academic year with masks optional followed more than 380 students and staff in the county school district having to quarantine during the first week of classes. Randolph County Schools has 15,000 students, according to the school system website.
The mandate will require that face coverings be worn when students are around other students or other people in classrooms or on buses. The board will review the policy Oct. 15.
The change in policy was recommended by Randolph County Schools Superintendent Stephen Gainey.
The Randolph County school board reversal on optional masks follows a similar decision a week ago by the Davidson County Board of Education. Davidson County Schools started the new academic year two weeks ago with masks optional.
But at a meeting Aug. 23, the Davidson County school board made masks mandatory after 94 students tested positive and another 674 were identified as having close contact with someone infected during the first week of classes. Davidson County Schools has 19,000 students, according to the school system website.
Guilford County Schools started the 2021-22 academic year with a mask mandate for students, teachers, other staff and visitors. During a back-to-school briefing last Thursday, Superintendent Sharon Contreras said the system had 242 in self-quarantine because of exposure. Guilford County Schools started the new academic year with 64,000 students.
Contreras said during the briefing that the COVID-19 numbers date back to the opening of year-round schools and other alternative schools at the first of August. The start of classes for traditional calendar schools was Aug. 23.
Going into the 2021-22 school year, Gov. Roy Cooper and state public health officials had urged and recommended local school districts to mandate masks because of the spike in COVID-19 cases this summer and the threat of the more contagious delta variant.