Board of Directors Votes to Maintain Mask Wearing in Schools, Hears Update on Virtual Academy | Blower rocket
BOONE – At its September 13 meeting, the Watauga County School Board unanimously re-approved the policy requiring students and staff to wear masks that was first adopted on August 9.
State law requires county school boards to review their position on mask mandates once a month. The Watauga County BOE did so without discussion as it was passed in a slate with other items before council in the consent agenda.
Board chairman Gary Childers said ahead of the vote that he did not hear any board member discussing the policy at the meeting. No member of the board of directors asked for more discussion.
Later during the public comment period – which usually takes place towards the end of each meeting – two community members and parents expressed their displeasure with the mask’s mandate and the fact that it was voted on before the public comments.
Michael Ackerman – who has a daughter with Down’s syndrome and attends Hardin Park – spoke first. He expressed disappointment that the board voted on the mandate before hearing from the public.
âI’m not anti-mask, but I’m anti-mandate,â Ackerman told the board. âAlthough one child death is one too many deaths, we need to keep it in perspective when talking about our children. “
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 486 children between the ages of 0 and 18 died from COVID-19 as of September 8. Ackerman told the council he believes the number of child deaths from COVID-19 compared to child deaths from other causes is a very small percentage.
Ackerman also asked the board why they are not reporting the number of cases that are asymptomatic, have mild symptoms, or require hospitalization.
“Shouldn’t this be the numbers we are looking at and not just the total number of cases?” Ackerman said. âI want my Sarah to be safe. But I don’t want my child to be forced to live in fear of a virus that will never go away.
Ackerman also mentioned that students don’t have to wear masks during lunch and that there were large groups of students close to each other in high school.
“I think the long-term damage from forcing children to wear masks all day at school, especially for students like my daughter, far outweighs the minimal risk they pose of not not wear masks, as the data clearly shows, âAckerman said.
According to the CDC, masks are a barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from reaching others. The CDC said studies show that the masks reduce the spraying of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth.
Emily Smith was the other community member who made public comments. She said she agreed with everything Ackerman said. She said that before, the children got sick and spent a few days at home. She said students who miss school because of quarantine requirements are “ridiculous” when not sick.
Smith also mentioned PCR testing in response to the announcement that WCS will begin implementing more testing to better assess COVID-19 among students and staff. Students who are tested will have obtained prior parental consent and the first school to begin testing will be a pilot program at Cove Creek. Smith mentioned that the creator of the PCR test – who died in August 2019 according to the NYT – said that the tests were created to “do something from nothing”.
âThe fact that it’s the only test we use to enjoy ruling our whole world here. It’s ridiculous,â Smith said.
PCR tests, according to the World Health Organization, are the most commonly used molecular tests. Samples are taken from the nose and / or throat with a swab and are used to detect virus in the sample by amplifying viral genetic material to detectable levels.
For this reason, a molecular test is used to confirm an active infection, usually within a few days of exposure and around the time symptoms may appear, according to the WHO.
Also at the board meeting, Watauga Virtual Academy Director Tamara Stamey provided an update on the status of the academy – WCS’s newest school -.
WVA currently has 87 students enrolled in kindergarten and middle school. Stamey said his original goal was to have 50 students, as only 43 students were initially enrolled at WVA in July. The virtual academy currently has nine teachers.
At WVA, Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays are teaching days virtually synchronized with the teacher. Direct instruction begins at 8:45 am each synchronous day and the hat time will remain constant even if the district is late.
Also during the meeting, the board of directors received a letter of appreciation from the Watauga County Electoral Board.
Several schools hosted voting sites in the 2020 election, which Chief Electoral Officer Matt Snyder said helped the board in the 2020 general election.
âThe 2020 general election provided a long list of unusual and unique challenges resulting from intense political motivations and a host of security concerns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic,â Snyder said. âThe contributions from you and your board members, fellow staff and school principals have exceeded all expectations. The election officials needed your help, and you succeeded beyond the call of duty. We cannot say enough about the important role you all played in helping to produce a very successful election on this camp. “
Snyder read part of the letter to the board before presenting it to Watauga County Superintendent of Schools, Scott Elliott.
“No one could ask for more than the courteous support provided by the directors and our colleagues and the general election was a huge challenge,” Snyder read in the letter. “We deeply appreciate the vital role you have played in achieving exceptional success.”
The Watauga County School Board will meet on October 11.