The Wilkes County Board of Education voted 3-2 Monday night to continue requiring that students and everyone else wear masks while indoors on school grounds after voting 4-1 for this during their Sept. 6 meeting.

Rudy Holbrook, school board chairman, joined board member Hardin Kennedy in voting against the mask mandate Monday night after voting for it on Sept. 6.

Holbrook and Kennedy voted against requiring masks when the matter was put to a vote on Aug. 30.

Holbrook stated Monday night, “As I said before I don’t like the masks and don’t think it’s my place to tell parents what to do” concerning masks. Holbrook added that when he voted for requiring masks during the Sept. 6 meeting, he said he would support the mandate for 30 days.

Kennedy again voiced his opposition to the mask mandate Monday night. He said people in Wilkes who oppose the mandate outnumber those who support it and that it’s unfair for this minority to impose their will on the majority.

Kennedy also again questioned the effectiveness of masks, saying only 12% of students and others in the schools who have had to quarantine this academic year due to COVID-19 were exposed to the virus in classrooms.

Board member Sharron Huffman, who made the motion Monday night for continuing the mandate, said she believes requiring them will help prevent children who have COVID-19 and are in school from spreading the virus to other children.

Huffman said she hates the masks but requiring them will help keep students in school

Wilkes Health Department Director Rachel Willard attended the meeting and said afterwards that the number of students in the Wilkes schools currently in quarantine due to being exposed to COVID-19 or having the virus is one-half or more of this number early in the academic year. Willard said it’s clear the masks help protect students.

Two parents spoke in favor of keeping the mask mandate in place during the public concerns portion of the meeting.

Huffman also made the motion to continue the mask mandate on Sept. 6. Voting with Huffman Monday night were board members Kirk Walker and Joan Caudill.

Under state legislation recently signed into law, North Carolina public school boards must vote every 30 days on whether to continue their requirements at that time regarding masks in schools.

On Aug. 2, the Wilkes school board voted unanimously to make masks “optional for everyone in the school as long as the county threshold of positive cases for school age students stays below recommended levels.” This is what Byrd recommended.

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