New Hanover County Schools to reconsider mask policy at board meeting Tuesday

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — The New Hanover County Board of Education will hold its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, discussing a variety of topics including the district’s controversial mask policy.

Both Brunswick and Pender County Schools have made masks optional, but New Hanover County Schools still requires them. All students, teachers, staff, and adult visitors must wear a mask unless they have a valid exemption.

Board vice-chair Nelson Beaulieu says he’s heard concerns from those on both sides of the issue.

“I think I’ve heard an equal number of people say they want to continue the mask mandate,” Beaulieu said. “I’ve heard plenty of people say that it’s time with community spread so low, with our hospitalization numbers in New Hanover County so low that it’s time to let our students learn without masks on. Honestly I totally understand both perspectives.”

Beaulieu says the board does not expect to hear a formal presentation from the county health department. He adds that the data used to guide the decision-making process may differ between board members.

“Just depending on what metrics you value, what metrics you prioritize, is it hospitalization rates, is it community spread, percent positivity, etc.” he said. “But for me, I’m encouraged by some of the numbers I have seen.”

Beaulieu says although board members may not agree on the issue, he’s confident they will make a decision that benefits students.

“No matter where anybody comes out on this issue, I really believe that every single person on that dais is trying to do what’s best for kids,” he said.

The board will also hear a presentation on a staff climate survey, hoping to address concerns raised at a recent meeting.

“Throughout the pandemic and in particular over the past three or four months, obviously there’s fatigue, obviously there are morale issues, and we want to make sure that we are not only addressing those but making sure that we’re effective in doing so,” Beaulieu said.

The North Carolina Association of Educators plan to make an appearance at the meeting, telling the board they cannot wait on a survey as teachers continue to resign from their positions.

You can view the agenda here.

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