Masks will remain mandatory for Hickory Public Schools after the school board decided unanimously to keep the current policy in place at Monday night’s meeting. The masking policy has been in place since early August.
Before voting on the masking policy, Director of Student Services Angela Simmons presented current data for the district and for Catawba County.
Simmons showed data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services which has Catawba County listed as red for high COVID-19 transmission rates.
As of Nov. 17, there were six active cases of COVID-19 in students; 57 students in quarantine, of which 15 were from community exposure, 12 were from school, eight were from athletics and 22 were showing symptoms. There was only one case in the staff, as of Nov. 22, with no staff members in quarantine.
Hickory Public Schools Superintendent Bryan Taylor asked the board to at least wait until after the Christmas break to make any changes to the masking policy. Taylor said he didn’t want to risk causing any issues for students this close to exams.
“Based on the information you have received and based on the proximity of testing and exams at the high school, my recommendation would be to try to get through the Christmas holidays if at all possible. There are some neighboring districts that are considering doing something different, regarding masks,” Taylor said. “What I mentioned to you at your last meeting was, we have looked at and we are working on some potential options in the event the board decides to go in a different direction. When you consider the fact that we have testing coming up at the high school within weeks after we come back from Thanksgiving, I would be remiss if I did not mention that if we went to a mask optional policy now, and it caused numbers to go up right here at exams, that could be problematic.”