Dare Board of Education votes for universal masking; reopens virtual option

Dare Board of Education meeting, Sept. 1, 2021.

During a raucous meeting that saw two parents removed by sheriff’s deputies, the Dare County Board of Education on Wednesday voted unanimously to require universal masking inside all county schools starting tomorrow, Thursday. Sept. 2.

As of Wednesday, 399 students were under quarantine at Dare County schools, with 78 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases.

Superintendent John Farrelly said children who wear masks would not have to quarantine when exposed to the virus. Of the 399 in quarantine, 350 would not have to be quarantined if there was universal masking in the schools.

When BOE Vice Chair Margaret Lawler made a motion to require universal masking in schools starting tomorrow, the small crowd at the meeting at First Flight High School became rowdy. One man started yelling and was removed by sheriff’s deputies. A second woman, with a child accompanying her, was escorted out by deputies a few minutes later, also yelling.

A parent is escorted out of the Dare Board of Education meeting, Sept. 1, 2021.

After the vote, the crowd became unruly again and the board called a recess. Most of those in attendance left at that point.

A parent is escorted out of the Dare Board of Education meeting, Sept. 1, 2021.

The school board had voted on Aug. 5 to allow parent choice for masking, and adopted almost none of the recommendations in the North Carolina Department of Health’s COVID-19 safe schools toolkit.

At Wednesday night’s meeting, the board also voted to:

  • Allow a virtual learning change of status up to Monday, Sept. 6 at 5 pm. The change status will remain for the entire first semester. An email will be sent to all parents/guardians tomorrow morning with details.
  • Limit nonessential visitors to schools as determined by the lead administrator of the facility.
  • Provide a link on it’s COVID-19 page to the Dare County Department of Health and Human Services.

School administrators at the start of the school year on Aug. 23 toured schools to determine how many students and staff were wearing face masks and found about 30 percent of students and 40 percent of staff were masked. On Wednesday, administrators toured again and found about 45 percent of students and 75 percents of staff were masked, Farrelly said.

He said about 90 percent of school staff is vaccinated.

This story originally appeared on OBXToday.com. Read More local stories here.