Harnett County Schools Holds Firm To Mask Decision

By Eliot Duke
Dunn Daily Record

The Harnett County Schools (HCS) Board of Education stood firm on its decision to make mask wearing optional despite one of its members asking it to reconsider.

Vivian Bennett found little support from the other four BOE members during Monday morning’s work session when her plea to implement mandatory mask use for all students, faculty and staff failed to sway any minds. The board, last month, voted against a mask mandate and elected to leave the decision in the hands of parents.

“We’re getting a tremendous amount of calls from both sides of the aisle over the masks,” board member Jason Lemons said. “We still want our parents to be parents. We’re not being flippant. We’re very concerned with what is going on in our buildings, but it doesn’t outweigh the vast majority of people who have been favorable to having the parent choose.”

Jermaine White, HCS assistant superintendent of student support services, provided the board with a list of protocols the system is recommended by the state to follow without a mask mandate. Based on state guidelines, White said the biggest change concerns quarantine. If students are required to wear masks on campus, White said quarantines would not be necessary but could if the mandate is not in place.

“If you have a face mask and I have a face mask, and one of us is COVID positive, we will not be required to quarantine because we were wearing those masks consistently,” said White. “If there is a student who is not wearing a face mask and you are wearing a face mask and one of us is considered COVID positive, what will happen is there is a possibility that one or both of us would have to quarantine for the time that’s allotted.”

Had HCS elected to go with the mask mandate, White said the school system would not have to account for social distancing, limit nonessential visitors into buildings, limit field trips or host assemblies, keep students in small cohorts, designate hallway directions or keep personal items separated.

“What we are doing as a district is making sure that when we open schools next week we are following the appropriate guidelines,” White said. “We have the nursing staff in place to meet whatever it is we decide to do as a school district. If masking remains optional we are able to move forward that we have the appropriate strategies in place to make sure our students are taken care of.”

Symptomatic students inside HCS buildings will face required testing, White said, and anyone showing symptoms is asked to avoid all facilities. With classes set to start on Aug. 23, the system is taking extra sanitation precautions to get ready for the influx of students.

“One of the main things we’ve been doing above and beyond is a great deal of wiping down doorknobs, stairwell banisters, throughout the day,” HCS Deputy Superintendent W. Brooks Matthews said. “We also have electric static cleaners if there is a suspected positive case. We also have ultraviolet lights that disinfect the rooms. Our custodians are doing a lot more disinfecting with disinfectant wipes on commonly touched objects in schools.”

After listening to White’s update, school board member Jason Lemons supported his vote to keep mask use optional, feeling there is much more data available than a year ago.

“It didn’t sway my mind,” Lemons said of White’s update. “Those are recommendations. A lot of folks think that is what is going to happen every single day. There are some things we’re going to have to do. I do believe we have a much better understanding of tracking. It’s the parent’s prerogative for what that child needs. The reason they are recommendations is because the governor did not create a mandate. We can take temperatures until the cows come home and we can check symptoms, but the fact is the parents should be doing that before the kid goes to school.”

Lemons reiterated the steps already being taken by the system in preparation for opening day while also pointing out his read of the room.

“Students and teachers seem eager for a return to a sense of normalcy,” said Lemons. “I feel very good [about starting school]. We have more nurses, guidance counselors and social workers, and we’ve rearranged classrooms to get better equipped.”

Athletes playing close contact sports, White said, will not be subjected to added testing at this time.

Brookie Ferguson, HCS assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, submitted 52 pages of comments from 735 responses the school system received from a survey on mask use.


    • And now they have caved to the pressure from the governor and press! Such a disgrace. So glad I homeschool so we don’t have to deal with this crap!

  1. Yeah until the school shuts down or kids start getting sick. It’s just Opening the school system up for Civil lawsuits if something happens to someone’s child. Failure to take recommended steps to help keep kids from getting sick. You can’t just pick and choose what recommendations to follow…

  2. Shame on the board chair. He’s right. There is a lot more data available. The data supports mandatory mask mandates. I agree with the previous post. Parents will have greater standing to file a successful lawsuit because the board’s immunity may be more limited since they fail to follow recommendations of CDC and state health authorities and the virus spread in the district. They are willingly and knowingly putting children and adults in unsafe conditions.

    • You really should check your source on this “data”. All studies prior to the scamdemic showed masks were not effective for viruses. Do a date limited search on your favorite search engine for mask studies before say 2019 and you will find many of them. Also…..on each box of these masks there is a label….I would suggest you read the part where they have the legal statements…”does not protect against viruses” is there. Wonder why a mask maker would be concerned about liability related to transmission of a virus if the mask works….hmmm?

  3. I guess the sheep can’t read. The decision is OPTIONAL and if your mask’s “work” then there is nothing to worry about. I don’t know what anyone is worried about because if your “mask” works then it doesn’t matter if someone around you has one on or not. Choose one side or the other… that just goes to show that the sheep that believe in mask, know as well as anyone else that they don’t work. If so they wouldn’t be worried

    • Masks work when everyone wears them. What rock have you been under? You wear a mask to protect others from what you may have, it’s not worn to protect yourself. If I have on a mask and you don’t and you have the virus and come over spewing your saliva as you talk and it lands on my mask, well now I’m breathing in your virus.

      See how that works?

      If we both have masks then your droplets of saliva stayed contained with you and mine do with me and we are both protecting each other.

      So masks DO work when used by all. Kind of like the vaccine and our ability to kill of the virus. It’s a pretty simple concept when you think about it.

      • Actually you are completely wrong…which is not surprising as most do not do actual research, you can use a search engine to find the studies done in the many decades up to before the scamdemic to find that masks indeed do not work to contain viruses. It has been proven time and time again. And FWIW….they print on the boxes of them that they are not effective against viruses. The only way masks would work is if all wore the big respirators 24/7…and even that is doubtful as some viruses can come in via other orifices than the mouth and nose.

  4. Well, there went that. As of this morning, Harnett County is requiring masks. Where’s the celebratory story from this site about that ruling?

  5. I wish our JoCo school board was brave enough to consider the actual science rather than giving in to the panic and hysteria. Every rational thinking person knows that the masks do not work for viruses (it is printed on the boxes of them for goodness sake) and that there is nothing that will ever be done by the powers that be that will ever keep a person from getting this hyped up flu bug.

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