GUILFORD COUNTY — Guilford County Schools will continue to require face masks for students and staff while inside school buildings through the month of September to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and support students’ continued in-person learning.

The Board of Education voted 6-2 Tuesday night in favor of masks, with board members Anita Sharpe and Linda Welborn voting against it.

Superintendent Sharon Contreras noted GCS will continue to work closely with medical professionals at the Guilford County Health Department. Students who can’t get appointments for COVID testing may be sitting home for five days.

“We can try to make this better because we want students in school,” Contreras said.

Of the district’s nearly 68,000 prekindergarten through 12th-grade students who started the 2021-22 school year, 140 are quarantined, Contreras said.

Contreras reported that 72% of GCS staff are vaccinated, 15% are not, and 12% have not complied with the board’s policy and will receive a legal notice that they have to immediately notify the district of their vaccination status, she said.

President Joe Biden issued an expansive rules mandate last week that all employers with more than 100 workers require them to be vaccinated or test for the virus weekly, and the school district is “waiting for guidance based on President’s Biden’s order,” Contreras said.

Welborn said she opposes requiring school employees to be vaccinated.

“I’m totally against any forced vaccination at any level. That is an individual choice and should not be forced on people,” she said.

Welborn said the state and federal requirements for tracking and quarantine data are “overwhelming staff at all levels.” She said she hopes either the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services or the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will look at what they’re demanding.

Whitney Oakley, GCS chief academic officer, and Michelle Reed, chief operations officer, provided the board with a detailed report about the district’s return to classes.

“Our priorities remain the same, to keep school open for daily instruction,” Oakley said. “Like the rest of the nation, we do see some declines in enrollments.”

cingram@hpenews.com | 336-888-3534 | @HPEcinde

cingram@hpenews.com | 336-888-3534 | @HPEcinde