SMITHFIELD – The Johnston County Public School Board voted Monday afternoon to continue to require students and staff wear face masks at school. The board was divided on the issue. The measure passed 4-to-3.
Board member Kay Carroll made a motion to continue the mask mandate based on current CVOID-19 metrics. Vice Chair Terri Sessoms seconded the motion. Carroll, Sessoms, Al Byrd and Lyn Andrews voted in favor. Chairman Todd Sutton, Ronald Johnson and Mike Wooten voted against.
Andrews asked fellow board members to consider have a few of the members meet with Johnston County Public Health Director Dr. Marilyn Pearson and other school administrators to look at what can be done to work towards face masks becoming optional. Wooten agreed to join Andrews and meet with Dr. Pearson.
Sessoms agreed with Andrews recommendation to look at when the mask mandate can be lifted. “I believe it is vitally important, in the spirit of transparency, that we have metrics so that parents know what that looks like and give them some hope that it’s not forever.”
Ronald Johnson asked Suprintendent Dr. Eric Bracy to come up with a contingency plan where schools can be set up in the district specifically for students and staff who do not want to wear masks. Johnson said it would involve a lot of logistics but wanted to see if sites specific for those not wanting to wear masks are feasible.
Chairman Sutton questioned how transportation could be arranged for students who may have to be bused from one end of the county to the other under Johnson’s proposal.
Carroll said as the board looks at all these options, organizations like the school board can only do so much and function properly. He urged the board to be cautious by not overpromising what they can realistically deliver.
The board then voted 4-to-3 to continue the mask mandate in Johnston County Public Schools.