RSS Board of Education votes to make masks mandatory indoors for two weeks

Published 1:10 pm Wednesday, August 18, 2021

UPDATE: The Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education voted Wednesday to require face masks indoors for the next two weeks.

The vote count was 4-2, with Alisha Byrd-Clark, Kevin Jones, Jean Kennedy and Brian Hightower in favor. Dean Hunter and Travis Allen voted “no.” Susan Cox was absent. Cox is planning to resign from the board to move closer to family.

During the meeting, Hightower questioned aloud which way he would vote. He ended up as the swing vote, saying he felt “our position as a board should be to keep kids in school because that’s the best way to educate them.”

Six days into the year, Rowan-Salisbury Schools already has about 800 student quarantines, with 100 at a single school.

Positive tests are significantly lower than the number of quarantines, but the criteria for quarantines includes being within 6 feet of a positive person for 15 minutes unmasked. Superintendent Tony Watlington said the district isn’t able to socially distance students. Prior to Wednesday’s meeting, masks have been optional in schools.

About half of  teacher absences aren’t being filled by the RSS substitute provider.


Original story:

SALISBURY — The Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education has called an emergency meeting to be held at 4 p.m. today.

The only agenda item listed is COVID-19 safety protocols. Meanwhile, Gov. Roy Cooper will speak at 3 p.m. in reference to continually rising cases, including in children.

The school board adopted a policy on July 12 making masks optional. At that point, the vote was in defiance of state orders, but masks were made optional indoors a week later for the school year. The district is complying with a federal order that requires masks to be worn on public transportation, including school buses. The district started classes a week ago.

The board’s decision to make masks optional passed 5-2, with Alisha Byrd-Clark and Jean Kennedy opposing the action.

Current guidance from the state strongly recommends masks, but about half of the state’s students are attending schools that do not require them or will begin classes soon.

The state is nearing two months of rising COVID-19 cases driven by the delta variant, which reproduces more efficiently in hosts and spreads more easily. On Monday, the RSS reported three cases in students and 19 in employees. There were 271 students and 30 staff quarantined. It was also the first COVID-19 report of the school year.

About half of RSS staff have been vaccinated, but most students are not eligible to receive the shot.

Today’s meeting will be held at the Wallace Educational Forum, 500 North Main St. It will also be live-streamed at

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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