Union County School Board to meet Monday after state threatens legal action over COVID-19 protocols

RALEIGH — The Union County Board of Education said it will meet Monday to discuss the response to the state threatening legal action over the districts quarantine protocols.

State health leaders sent the Union County Schools Board of Education a letter Wednesday requesting that board members rescind Monday’s vote on policies.

[Past coverage: Union County schools stop COVID contact tracing, quarantining for non-positive students, staff]

If UCPS did not comply by 5 p.m. Friday, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said the district can face legal action. The School Board scheduled an emergency meeting for 7 a.m. Monday.

“If Union County Public Schools do not take such steps by Sept. 17, legal action may be required to protect the public’s health,” Cohen stated in the letter Wednesday.

Click here to read the entire letter.

North Carolina health officials said Friday that they have had “productive conversations” with UCPS regarding their quarantine policies.

They said their attorneys have been meeting with the district’s attorneys and hope no legal action has to be taken. UCPS has not said if they will reverse their decision.

NCDHHS sent the following statement to Channel 9:

“We all share the same goal of keeping our students, teachers and staff in the classroom where children learn best. Excluding students from school should be a last resort. The guidance and recommendations in our StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit are designed to safely keep students in classrooms. Our attorneys have had productive conversations with attorneys for the Union County Board of Education, and we are hopeful that we can avoid further legal action. We are currently looking at what actions will be taken in Lincoln County. Again, it is our hope that we can work together. Our priority is to protect student, staff and community health.”

On Monday, UCPS stopped COVID-19 contact tracing and quarantines for non-positive faculty, students and staff.

Students can attend school even if they were in close contact with someone who has COVID-19.

Only people who tested positive, must stay home. Masks are also not required.

All 100 North Carolina counties are classified as high transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Union County is no exception,” Cohen stated in the letter.

Union County had the third highest number of COVID-19 cases in the state for children under 18 for the week ending on Sept. 11.

“The rate of cases in children in Union County is substantially higher than counties of similar size and population,” Cohen said.

She said that she is concerned that the board of education policies “pose an imminent threat of serious adverse health consequences for students, teachers, staff, and the public more broadly.”

She promoted the StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit.

“The Toolkit is clear on page 15, that ‘Isolation is required for all presumptive or confirmed cases of COVID-19’ and that ‘Quarantine is required for an individual who has been a close contact ... of someone who is determined positive with COVID-19’ with certain exceptions described below (emphasis added).”

Cohen urged in the letter that UCPS adopts all of the recommendations in the Toolkit and to reimpose the requirements to cooperate with local public health officials in identifying individuals exposed to COVID-19 as well as exclude students subject to isolation and quarantine measures described in the Toolkit no later 5 p.m. Friday.

Statement from UCPS:

“The Union County Board of Education received a letter from DHSS Secretary Mandy Cohen late this evening. The board is reviewing the letter. When a response is available, it will be shared publicly.”

(Watch the video below: Union County schools stop COVID contact tracing, quarantining for non-positive students, staff)