The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Board of Education is likely to vote on masking guidelines for the coming school year at a meeting on Wednesday.
The 2021-22 school year will begin on Aug. 23.
Scheduled for 5:30 p.m., at the Education Building, 4801 Bethania Station Road, the special called meeting will include a period for public comments. After a return-to-school update from Superintendent Tricia McManus, the school board is expected to vote on masking guidelines, according to the agenda.
The board had not been scheduled to meet until Aug. 10, but McManus said earlier this month that she wanted the new protocols in place by the end of July.
Teachers report to work Aug. 16.
When the 2020-21 school year ended in June, the number of daily COVID-19 cases in North Carolina had declined to around 350 a day, and there was hope that some students and staff members wouldn’t have to start the new year wearing masks indoors. However, the highly transmissible delta variant, coupled with a sluggish vaccine rate, has fueled a surge in new cases, with daily cases now regularly eclipsing 1,000. Friday’s case-count of 2,133 cases was the highest in four months.
Most of the cases involve unvaccinated people.
With numbers climbing and the start of school just weeks away, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services updated its guidance last week and is calling for local school districts to strongly consider requiring universal masking for students and staff in K-8 schools and unvaccinated students and staff members in high schools to wear masks.
That lines up with new guidance for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention but is looser than that issued earlier this month by the Academy of American Pediatrics, which calls for universal masking, regardless of vaccine status.
School boards in some surrounding school districts, including Randolph County Schools and Salisbury-Rowan County Schools, have voted in favor of optional masking for students and staff.
In Forsyth County, between 25% to 30% of students ages 12-17 have been vaccinated. There is no vaccine for children under 12.