Mask mandate ends next week for Hertford County Schools

Published 5:26 pm Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

WINTON – All school districts within the Roanoke-Chowan area have now chosen to implement mask optional policies. Hertford County Public Schools became the last local district to switch from their required mandate following a decision by the county’s Board of Education at their meeting on March 28.

The optional mask policy for HCPS students and staff will take effect on Monday, April 4.

“We support parental choice with regard to health decisions, including the decision to wear masks,” stated a press release from the district. “We welcome students and staff on our campuses with or without masks. Our staff may request face coverings in situations where we need to be sensitive to immune-compromised individuals, especially when we have large gatherings. We ask that you consider these requests as a courtesy to others in our community.”

The press release also noted that while masks wearing will be optional, the Board of Education is still encouraging continuous wearing of masks. The policies for school visitation will also be updated and it will be up to school leaders to determine opportunities for school volunteers and facility usage.

With this decision, Hertford County becomes the last school district in the state to switch over to an optional mask policy.

Many districts started making the switch in February, often citing low case numbers for COVID-19 as the reason masks will no longer need to be required.

Locally, Gates County Schools went mask optional on Feb. 7, but added stipulations to the policy. School metrics for COVID cases/quarantines must remain at five percent or under for students and staff. If the numbers begin to exceed five percent at a school, that school will return to mandatory masks for seven consecutive school days.

Bertie County’s Board of Education voted on March 8 to implement an optional mask policy, and Northampton County’s Board did the same on March 14.

As previously reported by the News Herald, in mid-February, Gov. Roy Cooper began encouraging schools and local governments to end their mask mandates, a decision based on case metrics and the widespread availability of vaccines.

“We are taking a positive step on mask requirements to help us move safely toward a more normal day to day life. It’s time to focus on getting our children a good education and improving our schools, no matter how you feel about masks,” Cooper said in a press release.

The General Assembly approved SB 173 around the same time. That bill would repeal the monthly requirement for districts to vote on mask policies each month and would allow parents to be the ones to make the decision about masking their children.

Cooper vetoed that bill, noting that districts across the state were already lifting mask mandates.

“Passing laws for political purposes that encourage people to pick and choose which health rules they want to follow is dangerous and could tie the hands of public health officials in the future,” he stated in his veto message.

The State Senate attempted a veto override in early March but did not garner enough votes to be successful.