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July 4, 2020

School board narrowly approves allowing students in for driver’s ed, other assessments

SALISBURY — Students will be allowed to reenter school facilities under special circumstances.

The Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education approved a motion on Monday that will allow entry for students who are participating in driver’s education, career and technical education credentialing and assessments.

Groups will be limited to 10 people, including staff and students. Everyone will be required to wear masks when they can not stay 6 feet apart and everyone will have temperatures checked before they can enter.

The point about not requiring masks if the groups can stay 6 feet apart was contentious. Board member Dean Hunter proposed the addition to the text that originally required masks

Hunter cited Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order that notes not requiring a mask if 6 feet of social distance can be maintained as the reason for wanting to include the addition.

The plan with the slightly modified safety guideline passed narrowly with Hunter, Travis Allen, Josh Wagner and Kevin Jones voting in favor. Jean Kennedy, Alisha Byrd-Clark and Susan Cox voted against the motion.

Cox said the addition placed unneeded complexity to an already complicated issue.

Jones, the board chair, voted last and in favor of the motion. Normally the board would vote simultaneously for or against a motion, but the board has been taking votes individually in its normal seating order because all meetings for the past few months have been virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jones said votes are taken in order because it is difficult to tell how people voted via video conference if the board votes simultaneously.

Jones said he voted yes on the motion because he did not think the addition of not requiring masks was necessary, but he also did not think it would affect anything. He felt ultimately when masks are worn would be up to interpretation by principals and he did not want to prevent the things the measure would allow students to do.

The chair does not have the ability to make motions like other board members. Jones can only ask for motions and vote on them.

“My vote yes is not a diminishment of wearing masks,” Jones said. “We need to be as careful as we can to prevent the spread.”

Board Attorney Ken Soo noted there could be some flexibility on the guidelines.  Students in lower grades may not be required to wear masks in the guidance by the state and there are cases where wearing protective equipment could adversely affect a child’s education.

Soo said the board could impose greater safety precautions like requiring younger students to wear masks. School districts in general are requiring other reasonable measures to keep people in buildings as  safe as possible.

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