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Dare County Schools leaders vote in favor of indoor mask mandate at schools

Dare County School Board special meeting (September 1).jpg
Posted at 9:15 PM, Sep 01, 2021

DARE Co., N.C. - After considering recent COVID-19 data, another northeastern North Carolina school district made the decision Wednesday that masks will be mandatory inside schools moving forward.

Among dozens of parents, some made their voices heard before the Dare County Board of Education at First Flight High School in Kill Devil Hills.

Many had mixed reactions after Dare County Schools (DCS) leaders voted unanimously to require masks indoors.

The decision came as DCS reported Wednesday 78 active cases among students and 399 students quarantined.

“Bottom line, we’re all here because we care about our students, and we really want what’s best for them,” DCS School Board Vice-Chairman Margaret Lawler said at the start of the special meeting.

Like many other parents at Wednesday's meeting, Audie Ragland believes the decision on whether to mask up should be left up to them.

“By all means, I will respect your decision, but I want my decision to not mask my children respected as well,” Ragland told News 3. “I don’t think that anyone should be mandating anything for the other. We are parents. We know our children best. We know their health best, and it’s our God-given responsibility and right to take care of them the way we see fit.”

DCS board members weighed in on the matter before making the decision.

“I’m not an anti-vaxxer, nor an anti-masker,” DCS Board Member Susan Bothwell said. “What I believe is there should be choice. The choices have to be made with information.”

“The only way we can guarantee our kids in school is to have them in a mask,” DCS Board Chairman Mary Ellon Ballance said during Wednesday’s meeting.

“For me, it boils down to what is the best opportunity for the kids to stay in class the longest and get face-to-face learning,” DCS Board Member Frank Hester said.

Meanwhile, other school board members called to have a civil conversation throughout the community.

Related: Mask debate in Chesapeake Schools reignites despite state mandate

“I think when we have this discussion, maybe it’s best to say we can agree to disagree and leave it at that,” DCS Board Member Joe Tauber said. “I’d much prefer to have a dialogue with anybody in this group, whether they’re opposed or in favor of masks - let’s have a civil dialogue.”

DCS’s indoor mask mandate will begin Thursday, September 2.

Click here for more Safely at School coverage.