After a very brief special meeting, New Hanover County school board drops mask mandate
Effective this Friday, Feb. 18, masks will now be optional in all New Hanover County Schools — with the exception of federally-funded Head Start classrooms, and buses, which fall under a federal order. Under current state law, the board will still have to reconsider the issue next month.
The vote to approve was 6-0 — with member Stefanie Adams absent — although board member Judy Justice and Chair Stephanie Kraybill initially suggested waiting until Monday when major updates to the North Carolina Strong Schools toolkit, announced last week, take effect.
Vice-chair Stephanie Walker cited those changes in support of her decision, including removing restrictions for asymptomatic students and eliminating separate guidelines for mask-options and mask-mandated districts. Walker said the changes signaled that the state quote “recognized we’re in a different phase of this pandemic.”
Walker noted that she wanted to see respect for people who chose to continue masking.
“Now that we are transitioning, it is my hope that people will understand that there are students and families and teachers that will remain wearing masks, and they should not be bullied over it. And they should be respected for their decision," Walker said.
Justice echoed Walker’s sentiments, calling for mutual respect and saying the district was entering a new normal – what some have referred to as an endemic phase.
The entire meeting lasted less than ten minutes, the shortest in recent memory.