UNION COUNTY, N.C. — Union County Public Schools’ Board of Education voted 8-1 Tuesday night to approve a joint resolution with county commissioners, calling on the state of North Carolina to end contact tracing and quarantine procedures for students in public school.

County commissioners unanimously approved the resolution on Monday night, before the board of education met Tuesday.


What You Need To Know

Resolution asks the state to end contact tracing and quarantine policies in public schools

Resolution says COVID-19 pandemic unlikely to end, requiring schools to adjust

Resolution was approved by both county commissioners and board of education


The debate over contact tracing and quarantine policy has raged for months in Union County, often eliciting strong opinions, tempers and heated moments at board meetings. Earlier this school year, the board voted to end its staff’s involvement in contact tracing and quarantine orders, saying it was the responsibility of the county’s public health department.

The decision received strong rebuke from some parents, state and county officials. However, other parents celebrated the decision, saying students and staff needed to be in school, not quarantining for weeks at home.

The resolution gave many reasons for the request to end contact tracing and quarantine policy, including the desire to keep students and staff in class, the current unending nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and the widespread availability of vaccines and other emerging treatments.

“The presence of COVID-19 in our State and County is likely to persist well into the future without a known or defined end,” the resolution reads. “We support the work and guidance of our Public Health Director and will continue to partner with local public health officials to ensure appropriate responses if the data regarding impacts of COVID- 19 on students and staff indicates a need for more intense strategic responses.”

Commissioners voted Monday to approve the resolution.

“In consideration of these and other relevant matters, the Union County Board of County Commissioners and the Union County Board of Education hereby jointly and resolutely call upon the State of North Carolina and the Department of Health and Human Services to take whatever actions are necessary to end the practice of contact tracing and quarantining of students on or before January 19, 2022,” the resolution ends.

The vote Tuesday night at the board of education meeting was largely uneventful. After board members questioned both UCPS staff and public health director Dennis Joyner, who was often maligned by members earlier this school year for not attending UCPS meetings to answer their questions, they voted 8-1 to approve the joint resolution. 

However, board members emphasized the resolution was not stopping current contact tracing and quarantines, but instead asking the state to do so by January 19, 2022.

“This is about setting a date for next semester, in January, to give the other 99 counties an opportunity to join with us in communicating — expressing to the state that it’s time to transition and learn how to adjust the sails and live with this virus. And, get our kids back in the classroom,” Chairperson Melissa Merrell said after the vote.

Merrell said she and other members of the board would also send the resolution to other school boards across the state.

While being questioned by board members Tuesday night, Joyner said he had started expressing to state leadership he also felt it was time to start transitioning to new policies, saying he was no longer sure an “endgame” to COVID-19 was clearly identifiable.

In a statement late Tuesday night, UCPS said students currently in quarantine or isolation should remain doing so and follow instructions from their school.