Iredell-Statesville ends mask mandate, contact tracing in schools

IREDELL COUNTY, N.C. — Iredell-Statesville Schools has voted to make face masks optional for students and staff members across the district.

In a school board meeting on Monday night, the board voted 4-3 to end its mask mandate immediately.

Board members said that while it was unfortunate the topic of masks had become political, the decision was one that needed to be made.

“At what point did our kids become political pawns?” asked parent Sharon Moore. “This is wrong.”

After a heated debate, the board also voted 4-3 to end contact tracing in schools, saying it is not required by the state and employees should not be required to do so. Board members said they would assist the health department with whatever information they need as they contact trace, but the responsibility would no longer fall to the district. Instead, it would rest solely on the health department.

“It’s time for our employees to get back to educating children,” said board member Bill Howell.

The decision means teachers no longer need to notify parents when their children have been in close contact with a student who tested positive for COVID-19.

Several parents addressed the school board Tuesday night in support of dropping the mask mandate.

“More students in our district have died by murder, suicide, car accidents, drownings and any other death you can think of than by COVID,” said Danielle Dixon, a parent.

Barber Taryn Ramsey said she was disappointed by the board’s decisions. She lost her fiancé to COVID-19 in September so the ruling feels personal to her. Her daughter is a student at South Iredell High School.

“I think we are going to be back in a mess again,” Ramsey said. “Take this thing serious, cause there’s a lot who aren’t. It’s real.”

She said her daughter is vaccinated and will continue to wear a mask.

Iredell-Statesville Schools were not the only district to make masks optional.

The Cleveland County School Board also decided on Monday night to make masks optional for students and staff in a 5-4 vote. And on Tuesday, Caldwell County Schools announced masks were optional in schools effective immediately.

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