DAVIE COUNTY, N.C. — Davie County Schools leaders made changes to its mask rules. The school district will now require masks for all students and staff inside school buildings and buses.
Superintendent Jeff Wallace gave the update Monday night.
“I’ve continued to communicate with medical professionals and do that daily, and we had a meeting with the board and vice-chair, the local health department director and staff and lead nurse, we then communicated with the full board and felt it was necessary to make the adjustment," Wallace said. “I want to emphasize we are hopeful and anticipate this decision being temporary and we hope to move real quick to making mask optional again soon.”
Wallace said for the decision to change would all depend on the cases in Davie County, particularly with school-aged children.
“Most of what I have received has been positive, there have been quite a few that have not been and I respect that," Wallace said. "I completely respect their position. My message is, I wish we were not in this situation. I don’t want to wear a mask, I don’t like wearing a mask, I don’t want our children to wear a mask."
Wallace said their goal is to keep kids in the classrooms.
“Parents, I’m sorry I wish it wasn’t this way, but many are glad we’re masking," Wallace said. "We feel it is the safest. This is not a debate whether masks work or not, this is not a debate about science, this is the guidelines we were directed, that were given. If you are mask optional you will quarantine a lot more children and therefore disrupt their learning and disrupt parents and potentially their employment.”
Back in July, Davie County voted to make masks optional. DCS now says COVID-19 trends are changing.
In July, there were only 37 school-aged COVID-19 cases in the county. Now, there are almost 60, according to district officials.
“It is our number one goal to keep students safe, but as much as in-person instruction as possible," Wallace said. “As we are seeing with other districts who open with masks optional, they are seeing immediate and large scale quarantines. We do not want the same experience."
It is a change that surprised many parents and it's a decision some aren't happy about.
Emily Carter has a son heading into 4th grade in Davie County this fall. She said she feels this decision should be made by parents.
“It’s just alarming for you to make that choice for me, so no I am not happy about the decision," Carter said. "As a parent, you took that choice away from me. In my home, we would not mask. If my child wanted to mask then he could. I definitely wouldn’t take that away from him but to say that to go to public school you have to mask it hit me personally because I feel like that’s a personal choice.”
“If you feel the masks actually do work and feel safer with the mask on then you wear one. You do not have the right to tell other people whether or not they have to wear a mask," Eric Booie said.
Eric Booie said his daughter is a rising freshman this year at Davie County High School.
“Everyone’s high school memories are going to be different, some are going to be good, some are going to be bad, this one would of been a lot better if the school board and the county would listen to the parents of the county and say wear a mask if you want to wear one. It should be by choice, it should not be mandated," Booie said.
Another parent, Brenda Abshire said this decision left her feeling frustrated.
“It just makes me frustrated because this is my child, I want to make the decision for her," Abshire said.
Heather Robertson is a parent of a rising first-grader and said she feels it should be the parents' choice.
“I get that there is a health risk, I understand that but where does it end? When are we going to stop wearing masks? The children wore them last year. We all complied and we’re doing it again," Robertson said. “I think it should be up to the parents if you don’t want your kid to wear a mask I don’t think they should be made to. It shouldn’t be mandatory, it should be the child or the parents' decision.”
The superintendent says they will continue to monitor COVID-19 numbers and could change the decision yet again.
The first day of school for Davie County students is August 24.
There are several school districts in the Triad starting the school year with the decision to have masks optional.
Wilkes County Schools said masks will not be required as long as the county threshold of percent positive cases for school-age students remains below-recommended levels. If the levels exceed that number, the decision could be reevaluated.
At this time there has not been any discussion about reversing the decision for Yadkin County Schools. The district said the school board will continue to review the data and may make adjustments if necessary.
Rockingham County Schools said they do not currently have plans to reverse its decision to make masks optional for students, faculty, and staff. They will revisit the issue again at their work session on the evening of Monday, August 30.
Stokes County Schools said there has been no change in reversing the current masking decision and that it will remain optional. A spokesperson said for staff and students who are unvaccinated, are still encouraged to social distance. Students will still be required to wear masks on yellow school buses and activity buses.