Masks to be optional on CMS buses starting Monday, officials say

CHARLOTTE — Masks will be optional in Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools buses, as well as previously announced in classrooms, starting Monday, officials said.

The CMS Board of Education unanimously voted Feb. 22 to make masks optional for students, staff and visitors inside schools. District officials announced Friday that masks will be optional on buses, also.

“I’m not extremely enthusiastic about it because I’d like us to continue to wear masks but if we’re mask optional, I’d like us to go into a manner that’s well thought out and planned out,” teacher Ayanna Perry said last month.

Mecklenburg County’s health director recommended last month the district be mask-optional.

“Current trends point to a shift in COVID-19 conditions and indicate the need for a revised response plan that encompasses prevention, surveillance, and equitable distribution of resources,” Dr. Raynard Washington, director of Mecklenburg County Public Health, said after the county changed its mask policy.

The school board also said the March 7 date would allow families and staff time to get vaccinations or boosters, if needed, and give schools time to prepare communications and protocols for the change in policy.

Board member Rhonda Cheek made a motion to end the mandate on Feb. 26 when the county’s mask mandate ended.

The board shot down that idea 3-6, citing the extra week gives the district more time to get together a communication plan.

“I think we all expected them to vote the mandate down,” said Brooke Weiss, chair for Moms for Liberty Mecklenburg County. “I think a lot of us would really hope they’d stay in line with the county and our kids would be able to take the masks off on the 26th.”

The vote came after a news conference in which North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper encouraged all school districts to consider dropping their mandates.

Meanwhile, the county-wide mandate is set to expire this weekend.

In his news conference, Gov. Cooper said people know how to gauge their levels of risk and protect themselves. Masks, vaccines, and tests are now widely available.

Masking in schools has been a contentious issue, and some students and parents told Channel 9 last week they had split reactions to the idea of dropping the mandate.

The district has relied on COVID-19 data in the past to make their decision.

The board will continue to review the mask policy at least once a month as required by state law.

(WATCH BELOW: NC health officials no longer recommend contact tracing at K-12 schools)