SMITHFIELD – The Johnston County Public School Board voted Tuesday afternoon to continue the mask mandate. Board member Mike Wooten tried to change the policy but the motion failed 4-to-3.
Mr. Wooten said improving metrics were a positive sign and he made a motion to make masks optional for all K-12 students effective immediately.
Board member Ronald Johnson seconded the motion. However, the motion failed 4-to-3, meaning students and staff will still be required to wear masks indoors and on buses.
Vice Chairman Terri Sessoms, Kay Carroll, Al Byrd and Lyn Andrews voted in the majority to continue with mandatory masks. Wooten, Johnson and Chairman Todd Sutton voted unsuccessfully to end the mask mandate.
“I understand the desire to do away with it,” Kay Carroll said. “Lets don’t mess up.”
Al Byrd agreed saying he felt the board was moving “too quickly” to do away with the mandatory mask requirement.
Board member Lyn Andrews said, “It’s not easy. Its not fun. The masks are difficult but what we are doing is difficulty. I can’t see abandoning it right now.”
Test To Stay
Afterwards, the board voted 7-to-0 to approve a new optional Test to Stay program. The program will allow students and staff exposed to COVID in Johnston County Public Schools to remain in the classroom if they test negative, are entirely asymptomatic of COVID-19, wear a mask indoors, and determine the exposure to COVID-19 occurred at school and not in another setting.
The student or staff member will be screened daily for symptoms. They will also be tested on days 1, 3, 5 and 7 post-exposure. If the individual tests positive at anytime, they will be required to quarantine at home.
The Test to Stay program will be optional. Those not wishing to participate can quarantine at home.
Sessoms said it is important to keep students in school and Test to Stay will help meet that goal. “As a school board member I feel we are charged to provide a quality education to children. The vast majority learn best in school and we want to keep them there in school.”