School board reverses course, mandates masks for students and staff

Published: Sep. 2, 2021 at 6:43 PM EDT
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - The Cabell County Board of Education voted 5-0 Thursday evening to require masks for students and staff at schools starting Friday, Sept. 3.

Superintendent Ryan Saxe recommended the policy where pre-K through 12th grade students are required to wear masks at school and on buses, regardless of vaccine status, unless they have a medical excuse not to wear them.

Students won’t be required to wear masks outdoors.

Saxe says the mask mandate would be dropped if the county goes green, yellow, or gold on the state’s color map 5 consecutive days. Masks would still be recommended under that scenario.

School officials say they currently have 170 students who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 and more than a 1,000 quarantined.

Board President Mary Neely said she recognizes this decision will be upsetting for many, but it’s obvious from the health department that cases have increased rapidly since the beginning of the school year. She says they don’t want the transmission rate to continue its trend and force the district to go back to remote learning.

Neely voted for the mandate after voting against it two weeks ago.

Board member Skip Parsons also switched to voting for the mask mandate, citing the increased virus cases.

“I’m willing to give up a little bit of freedom to vote yes for the mask,” Parsons said.

“We knew there would be positive cases and quarantines,” Superintendent Ryan Saxe said, “but I think a number of quarantines needing to take place because of the close contacts that were not wearing masks started really stretching district resources and staffing.”

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