A divided Johnston County Board of Education voted 4-to-3 to allow for parental choice when it comes to their children wearing masks when they return to school in August.
Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy said Johnston County currently has 9.1 percent of individuals testing positive for COVID-19, the highest percentage since February 2021. The peak was in January 2021 at 17.1 percent.
Prior to the vote, Dr. Nicholas King, Chief Academic Officer, said if masks are optional this school year, there is the potential for significant student and staff absences.
“This decision needs to be a choice for parents, teachers and staff… I still feel, even with the data, that the decision needs to be a choice for our students and staff,” stated school board member Mike Wooten, who made a motion for facemasks to be optional for students and staff in grades K-12, both indoors and outdoors.
The motion was seconded by Ronald Johnson.
Chairman Todd Sutton said, “I respect the parents that feel the need to keep their kids safe by continuing to wear a mask just as much as I respect the parents that feel they should have a choice… This has been a hard decision. We all have received many, many, many emails. I appreciate the parents voicing their opinion, either way, if it’s for masks or not. I appreciate that.”
Vice Chair Terri Sessoms added, “I want to thank all of our parents and staff members who have reached out to us. It’s obvious that we are a County that deeply cares about our children. There is no doubt about that…. Many want choice but there’s also those who want mandatory masking. Our county is split, just like our state is, and our nation.”
The board voted 4-to-3 to allow choice when it comes to wearing a facemask this school year. Board members Lyn Andrews, Ronald Johnson, Todd Sutton and Mike Wooten voted in favor of facemasks being optional. Board members Al Byrd, Kay Carroll, and Terri Sessoms voted against.
Schools will be in operation 5 days a week following their adopted calendars this Fall and will return to pre-Covid routines and events. Those events, however, will be planned to allow for physical distancing as much as possible including orientation, assemblies, field trips, and staff meetings.
Under the current plan, visitors and volunteers will be allowed in schools. Transportation will resume as normal.
Athletics, extracurricular and co-curricular activities must follow the guidance of the NCHSAA and school unit where they participate and compete.