By Tim Gardner
The Avery County Board of Education voted unanimously (5-0) Tuesday night in favor of optional wearing of masks or other facial coverings for all students, teachers and staff in the county’s public-school buildings.
As a result of the Board’s vote, parents of students in the Avery School System have the right to decide whether or not their children wear a mask or another facial covering when inside those facilities.
However, mask wearing will continue to be required on all regular school and activity buses. Additionally, all visitors to the county’s schools can enter the schools by phone appointment only. Visitors will be screened upon entry and will be required to wear a mask. At indoor school events such as athletic games, school officials ask that non-vaccinated spectators wear a mask, but this will be on the honor system. There currently no such recommendation or mandate by Avery County Schools for outside athletic contests such as football games.
The Board of Education originally adopted optional wearing of a mask or another facial covering facial by a unanimous vote at its August 10 meeting. However, the Board reversed course at its September 28 meeting to require a mask or other facial covering by all students, teachers and staff when inside school facilities after coronavirus totals surged again in the county and across the nation. The board voted then 3-2 to require students in grades third through 12th to start wearing a mask or another facial covering beginning on October 6.
Avery Schools Superintendent Dr. Dan Brigman released the following statement about the new mask or facial covering vote:
For All Avery County School System Staff, Students, Parents & Guardians
“Last evening, the Avery County Board of Education met for our regular monthly meeting. As required by state law, the wearing of face covers was revisited with the required action taken by our Board. A unanimous decision was made to realign with the NC Department of Health and Human Services and Governor Cooper to strongly recommend wearing face masks, but they be “OPTIONAL” for all staff and students effective today, Wednesday, October 13, 2021. In accordance with the federal mandate, masks will continue to be required on all buses. All school visitors will access our schools by appointment only.
“We will continue to ensure the highest level of cleaning and disinfecting occurs on a regular basis in all schools, buses, and touched surfaces. We will continue to work in partnership with our local health department to monitor health and safety issues in Avery County. We will also provide ongoing updates to our stakeholders regarding COVID-19 in Avery County.
“Thank you for your continued support and patience as we strive to maintain daily operations while improving teaching and learning throughout the Avery County Schools.”