Cabarrus County Schools reinstate masks as quarantines top 1,200

CABARRUS COUNTY, N.C. — The Cabarrus County Board of Education voted 4-3 on Monday night to reinstate its mask mandate for students and staff amid the surge in COVID-19 positive cases across the Carolinas and nationwide. The mandate goes into effect Wednesday and will last until Jan. 24.

More than 1,200 students are in quarantine, school officials said -- an all-time high.

The Cabarrus Health Alliance shared the county’s soaring COVID-19 numbers, which includes a percent positivity rate of more than 27%.

Masks will not be required during athletic exercises, extracurricular activities, and art performances. The board said the goal in reinstating the mandate is to bring quarantined students back into the classroom, but parents Channel 9 spoke with were split on the decision.

“We have witnessed ‘rules for thee but not for me’ as officials demand one thing, then are shown doing the exact opposite,” Shawn Turner said. “The constant attempts to mandate masks on these children is exhausting.”

“Masks work and it’s imperative to have our children and teachers universally masked to keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed,” Chris Reubeth said. “You’ve heard it many times.”

The mask policy will be in effect until at least Jan. 24 when the board will meet again to revisit the policy.

‘I don’t want our kids to get sick or our staff to get sick’

“We would love to have a mask-required policy in place through the end of January,” said Erin Shoe, with Cabarrus Health Alliance, on Jan. 4. “Do I think you’re going to go there? Probably not.”

The Cabarrus County School Board didn’t bring the district’s mask policy to a vote last week because most of the members didn’t support amending the agenda to add it.

Board member Keshia Sandidge moved to take up the vote.

“I don’t want our kids to get sick or our staff to get sick,” Sandidge said. “And right now, it’s showing that’s very real and that could happen.”

Sandidge said she would have voted for a mask mandate since that’s what medical professionals recommended. She also thinks it’s the best way to keep kids in school.

“In addition to social distancing and all these other strategies being suggested, that, in my opinion, are worth following to make sure our children are safe, staff are safe, and our community are safe,” she said.

Board Chair Holly Grimsley said she thinks that masks being optional is the right decision.

“We have a two-year, 51% learning loss deficit that we’ve got to deal with, but we are spending the majority of our time arguing mask mandate and mask optional,” Grimsley said.

Grimsley said that the district’s data shows quarantine numbers were not vastly different when masks were mandated compared to being optional. She said students will be exposed to COVID-19, regardless of the vote.

“The exposures are happening when they have them off -- lunchtime, recess, mask breaks, when kids are sick and can’t wear it in class,” Grimsley said. “There’s a lot of exposure we have no control over.”

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Erika Barrier retired late in 2020 after 30 years as a teacher with Cabarrus County Schools.

“It’s not just about the children, here,” Barrier said. “I think it’s a matter of looking at the big picture and looking out for everyone, not just ourselves.”

(WATCH BELOW: Cabarrus County Schools will be mask-optional beginning next week)