Chatham School board makes changes to masking policy

Pittsboro, NC – The Chatham County Board of Education voted at its monthly meeting on Monday, February 14, to begin a gradual transition to an optional masking policy.

In the first stage that the board approved 5-0, effective Feb. 15, the school district will no longer require student-athletes, coaches and spectators to wear masks during sporting events.

In order to provide staff and students with time to get vaccinated if they so choose or time to get a booster shot, the district will not transition to optional masking in the classroom and CCS facilities until on or around March 7, depending on data and advice from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, the Chatham County Health Department and the ABC Science Collaborative. The board approved the framework for the pathway to shift to optional masking by a 3-2 vote.

photo of screen at school board meeting outlining the unmasking roadmap.

The board will have a called meeting prior to March 7 to review data available and affirm and authorize next steps.

“Numbers have been trending in the right direction,” said Board Chairman Gary Leonard. “We believe as more people have gotten vaccinated and their boosters, as well as nearing the end of winter, we can provide our staff and students with the choice of whether they want to wear a mask or not.”

The district will continue to monitor infection rates and will make policy adjustments accordingly as it takes a measured approach to moving toward optional masking.

“We work closely with our local Health Department to see how the community is faring with COVID-19,” Leonard said. “We will continue to have those conversations with the department and look to it for guidance.”

Chatham County Schools has been able to maintain in-person learning throughout the 2021-22 school year by using mitigation strategies.

“Staff and students who want to continue to mask are welcome to do so,” said Superintendent Dr. Anthony Jackson. “But we recognize others in the community want the option of removing the mask, and we believe it is now time to offer that choice. We do this with the understanding that the risk now shifts from district mitigation to individual responsibility.”