‘We are scared for our kids’: Masks stay optional in Union County Public Schools

UNION COUNTY, N.C. — The Union County Public Schools Board of Education voted Tuesday night, 7-2, to keep masks optional inside schools.

Board members were forced to defend their decisions as some parents urged leaders to do more to protect students from COVID-19.

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Hundreds of parents gathered for the school board meeting, some in favor of a mask mandate and others backing the school board’s decision to leave mask-wearing optional.

Many parents told Channel 9 they don’t think contact tracing is being done well enough to keep their kids safe.

“As parents, we are frustrated. We are scared for our kids,” said Debbie O’Keefe. “I know the other side thinks that we’re overreacting.”

[PAST COVERAGE: Some Union County parents say they have to use social media to contact trace]

Parents took their concerns to the board meeting, saying they worry the school system is dragging its feet on reporting COVID cases to the health department.

But school leaders pushed back. Assistant Superintendent Jarrod McCraw told the school board that his department speaks with the health department every day, and that there is no delay when it comes to reporting.

“I heard that tonight that our staff is not providing the information they need -- that’s not true,” McCraw said. “We are providing everything we can. We meet with them to make sure it is sufficient information ... and I want the public to know if there’s ever an issue, Mr. Joyner and I, our nursing staff and their nursing staff, would work through that.”

Despite calls from some parents to make masks mandatory, school board members voted to keep masks optional.

(Watch the video below: Some Union County parents say they are being forced to use social media to contact trace)