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Pitt County Schools wait to make decision on mask guidelines for upcoming semester

“Nothing has been mandated thus far, and then we can come and make a better decision at the work session with more information,” Chair Melinda Fagundus said on Wednesday.
Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 9:04 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 28, 2021 at 1:04 PM EDT
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PITT COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - The Pitt County Board of Education did not enact a mask mandate for the upcoming school year at a board meeting Wednesday morning.

Board members did not take action at the school board meeting, which means there is currently no mask mandate in place for the upcoming year. Board members say they would like to review guidance from state health officials and the CDC when they have updated information.

“Creating a mandate at this point without an updated toolkit is premature,” Anna Barrett Smith said. “Number one, it needs to ... reflect the current CDC guidance. When the current guidance from the CDC is not matching what’s in our toolkit, it makes it difficult to make a decision of that magnitude.”

At the meeting, school board members reviewed the revised NCDHHS Public Health Safe Schools Toolkit K-12, which suggests all students and staff in grades K-8 wear masks indoors and high school students and staff wear a mask indoors if they are not vaccinated. The toolkit was last updated on July 9 and since then, the CDC has reversed course on its mask mandate.

The school board also presented findings on a survey sent out to staff and parents about mask requirements. The results showed about 60% of respondents thought wearing a mask should be optional, while 40% believe mask wearing should be required in schools.

A mask survey presented at the Pitt County Board of Education's meeting on Wednesday shows...
A mask survey presented at the Pitt County Board of Education's meeting on Wednesday shows 59.8% prefer masks are not required.(Pitt County BOE)

Health officials estimate close to 80% of school staff in the county are vaccinated, while about 25% of students are vaccinated, according to the health department.

“It’s not just Pitt County students, it’s all kids between 12 and 17 who have been vaccinated,” superintendent Dr. Ethan Lenker said. “So about a quarter of the kids, which is actually a pretty decent number compared to some of the other superintendents I’ve talked to.”

The school board is scheduled to meet again on August 2nd for a board meeting and again on August 16th for a board work session.

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