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Parents question Beaufort County Schools’ vote to make masks optional

Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 7:57 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON, N.C. (WITN) - Masks will be optional for students and staff in Beaufort County schools starting Wednesday.

The board of education voted 5-4 Tuesday to change from the current mask mandate.

Beaufort County Schools Superintendent Matthew Cheesman tells WITN he recommended continuing with the face-covering requirement.

“Last night during their vote on the mask mandate, they specifically did not vote in favor of that recommendation.”

Matthew Cheeseman, Beaufort County Schools superintendent

Parents gathered outside of the school administration office Wednesday to voice their concerns.

“We feel helpless right now for our child. Your child is everything to you. Being that we feel now like they’re taking our right away to protect our child by making this optional... we really feel like something needs to be done.”

Cierra Jones, Beaufort County parent

Cheeseman says his recommendation comes from wanting students to learn in the classroom as much as possible.

“Having the mask on is a better way of actually maintaining that probability of keeping kids in school because if you are not wearing a mask and a student tests positive and you are in close proximity, then you are going to go home as well.”

Matthew Cheeseman, Beaufort County Schools superintendent

Administrators ensure that they will be adhering to the Strong Schools North Carolina Public Health Toolkit to keep classrooms safe for instruction.

“We are going to keep teaching and doing what’s best for our students so they can continue to grow. And we will continue with our cleaning protocols and keeping the seating charts so we can be mindful of where students are in case they are sick or are tested positive for COVID. So we’re just going to run things the same way.”

Alicia Vosburgh, Eastern Elementary School principal

Parents are planning to make public comments on the changes in mask guidelines at the next monthly voting meeting.

Until then, administrators for the Beaufort County School District will continue to maintain all mitigation and quarantine procedures.

Superintendent Cheeseman says nothing is safer than vaccination, but there is not currently a vaccine offered for students under 12 years old. His recommendation to require masks is aimed at keeping everyone protected.

Cheeseman reminded parents Wednesday that the school board vote marks the final decision on the matter.

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