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Kannapolis City Schools will ‘strongly recommend,’ not require masks

KANNAPOLIS – In a unanimous vote on Thursday, the Kannapolis City Schools Board of Education adopted a set of COVID-19-related safety recommendations that include a recommendation, not a requirement, people on school campuses wear masks.

In announcing its decision, KCS said its school board “voted to strongly recommend masks for all K-12 students and all KCS staff, especially for those who are unvaccinated.” But the phrase “strongly recommend” means students and staff will not have to wear masks outdoors or indoors while at schools. Masks will still be required on buses.

KCS Board Chair Todd Adams said the district intends to comply if a new mask mandate is passed down by the state. He said KCS believes the state will still require masks on buses, too, but direction of the state on the issue is “clear as mud.”

The mask policy was only part of recommendations the KCS board accepted from Superintendent Kevin Garay on Thursday. The recommendations include policies for social distancing and quarantining, all based on the Strong Schools N.C. Toolkit. The tool kit is a continually updated document from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services that outlines COVID-19 pandemic requirements and recommendations for school districts.

The current version of the tool kit says districts should require masks, but it does not mandate they do so.

Compared to some of the other decisions he’s voted on during the pandemic, Adams said Thursday’s vote was one of the easiest.

“It’s a personal decision,” Adams said. “So much of this whole thing is.”

During the school year, KCS shifted schedules multiple times. It sent elementary students to school five days per week in November after the state loosened restrictions in October, but ahead of winter break KCS decided to begin the second semester remotely.

Cases, hospitalizations and COVID-19 deaths worsened throughout December and into January, and the board extended remote learning to mid-February before bringing students back to classrooms two days per week and finishing out the year on a full time, in-person schedule as the pandemic retreated.

Cases have been climbing for an entire month. There were 3,268 new cases reported in North Carolina on Thursday. On July 1, there were 296.

The Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education made masks optional across the board on July 12 before the tool kit removed the mask requirement.

Rowan County is labeled as a high transmission area by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The classification comes with a recommendation the CDC is rolling out in similar areas: people should wear a mask indoors regardless of their vaccination status. Cabarrus County also is labeled a high transmission area.

In issuing its guidance, the CDC cited incidents of the Delta variant of the virus evading vaccine immunity in limited circumstances. However, the variant is overwhelmingly spreading among people who are unvaccinated.

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