An update on health guidance for the state’s public schools has left parents and some educators asking about COVID-19 requirements for the upcoming school year. But Pitt County Schools officials have not yet announced whether masks will be required when classes resume in August.
Gov. Roy Cooper and N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen announced on Wednesday that the updated StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit emphasizes continued masking. But the new guidance, set to take effect July 30, stops short of a mask mandate.
“The toolkit says schools with students in kindergarten through eighth grade should require all children and staff to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status,” according to a statement from the governor’s office. “Schools with students in ninth through 12th grades should ensure that anyone who isn’t fully vaccinated, including students, wear a mask indoors.”
Pitt County Schools issued a statement on Facebook on Wednesday afternoon that reminded parents that when the school year begins next month it will include “in-person, full-day instruction 5 days a week." The post did not mention the issue of face coverings, but several parents responded with questions about masks.
Pitt County Schools Public Information Officer Jennifer Johnson said that district leaders are reviewing announcements and recommendations that appear in the updated toolkit.
“Upon review, we will keep our educators, staff, and parents informed of any changes or decisions that affect operation of our schools,” according to a statement released by PCS on Thursday.
Johnson said that the school board will decide how the state’s recommendations affect the local district.
The next regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 2. The location of the meeting has not yet been announced.
Masks are currently required for students and staff participating in PCS summer learning sessions, which continue through July 29.
The traditional school year for the district’s 23,000 students is scheduled to begin on Aug. 23. The two PCS early college high schools are scheduled to begin classes on Aug. 5.
The updated toolkit says schools should encourage staff and families to be immunized and suggests that schools could consider partnering with state or local health departments to serve as COVID-19 vaccination sites.
Earlier this week, Pitt County Schools sent a vaccine clinic interest form to parents of middle school and high school students. The survey is designed to gauge interest from families in a vaccination clinic for ages 12 to 18 to receive the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19.
Johnson said if 50 or more parents express interest in having their students participate, PCS would organize an event with the county’s Health Department.
Sent Monday, the form notes that COVID vaccinations are not a requirement for school attendance and that participation in a clinic is voluntary.