By Tim Gardner
The Avery County Board of Education voted unanimously (5-0) Tuesday night in favor of optional mask wearing for all students, teachers and staff in all public-school buildings in the county, but that mask wearing is suggested due to a resurge nationally and locally in coronavirus (COVID-19)
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 vote approved these recommendations that were made to the Board by Schools Superintendent Dr. Dan Brigman.
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 masks or related facial coverings when inside a school facility.
“School health and safety continues to be a priority of our Board and for me as we plan for the return of staff and students,” said Dr. Brigman. “A hot topic across the nation is the issue of face coverings and North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper recently announced his decision to allow local Board control pertaining to face coverings at current time. And our Board wanted to address the issue right away.”
Dr. Brigman added: “We will continue to ensure the highest level of cleaning and disinfecting occurs on a regular basis in all Avery County public schools, buses and touched surfaces in school facilities. We will continue to work in partnership with Mrs. Deb Gragg and the other staff members of our local health department to monitor health and safety issues in Avery County and our school system. And our Board of Education members and our other stakeholders will continue to be updated regarding COVID-19 in Avery County.”
In other action from the meeting, the Avery Board of Education Avery decided to delay the opening of schools for Avery High Students for the 2021-22 year until Wednesday, August 18. The original school opening day was Monday, August 16th. The reason cited was Branch Builds Construction Company not meeting deadlines for the completion of construction of new facilities and renovations of old ones at the school. Dr. Brigman said the failure to meet those deadlines created some safety concerns for students to be in the newly constructed addition to the school.
He also noted that Avery High freshmen orientation will be held on Tuesday, August 17th at the school.