Mooresville schools reverse course, mandate masks after students quarantined

MOORESVILLE, N.C. — While the majority of schools in the Charlotte area are sticking with mask-optional policies, some are changing course.

Mooresville Graded Schools and Union Academy Charter are now requiring masks after both experienced outbreaks during the first days of the new school year.

Starting Friday, students, staff and visitors in the Mooresville Graded School District will have to wear a mask.

Channel 9 first reported about a positive COVID case at Rocky River Elementary School on Tuesday -- one day after they started the new school year. Since then, more than 90 students and staff have been quarantined after nine positive cases were reported as the school wraps up its first week.

The school board voted to make masks optional during an emergency meeting last week but have now reversed course. The superintendent said fewer than 10 students would have needed to quarantine if everyone had been wearing masks originally.

“I understand that this decision will not make everyone happy, but it is the decision that needs to be made at this point to keep our kids in school,” said Superintendent Dr. Stephen Mauney.

The change comes after the state moved Iredell County from “significant” to “substantial” community spread. Mauney said the mask requirement will stay in place as long as that’s the case.

Parents Channel 9 spoke with fall on both sides of the very heated debate. Some showed up on Friday morning to protest the superintendent’s decision.

Mom Jennifer Becker said she suspected the new rule would be coming.

“I knew it was coming. I just knew that it wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when,” she said.

Still, others want masks to be left to personal preference. Jay Goodman organized the protest Friday outside the administrative building and is also running for a seat on the school board.

“Give them (parents) the option to govern their kids the way they’re supposed to,” he said.

Goodman tried to drop his daughter off at Rocky River Elementary without a mask, but the district denied the religious exemption and she was turned away.

The school is only accepting medical exemptions for students.

Tanae McClean with Mooresville Graded Schools told Channel 9 this situation is something they’ve been planning for.

“If we are in orange or red, which is substantial or critical, we would move to mask-required,” she said. “That is something we have said from the get-go.”

Another mother, Monica Donaldson, said this is the best and safest decision.

“Our goal is consistency, and in order for the teachers to do their job and for my kids to get their education, we know it’s best for them to be in the building, and if this is what needs to happen for them to do that, then that’s what we’re going to do,” she said.

Currently, 44 school districts, including Mecklenburg, Cabarrus and Lincoln counties, are offering COVID-19 testing at schools. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services selected Mako Medical and Concentric by Ginkgo to provide the services starting this fall.

The agency said school-based testing for COVID-19 will help protect students and staff from the spread of the virus by quickly detecting it and reducing the risk of further transmission.

Districts will need to get parents’ permission before testing students.

A bill requiring minors to get approval from their parents before getting the COVID-19 vaccine has passed the NC House and Senate. It’s now on Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk.

He has not said whether he will sign it.

(WATCH BELOW: Local school mandating masks after 14 COVID cases, more than 150 quarantined)