All but a handful of school districts in North Carolina have dropped classroom mask mandates. Face masks became optional Monday for students and staff in Wake and Mecklenburg counties, the state’s biggest school districts.
Masks became a daily part of school for most of the state, with the delta and omicron waves of COVID-19 starting in August.
The debate over masks has become a political flashpoint at school boards around the country. Gov. Roy Cooper last month said local governments and school boards should end mask mandates on March 7.
Nine of North Carolina’s 117 public school districts have not yet voted to end mask mandates, according to the North Carolina School Boards Association.
Coronavirus numbers have been declining steadily since the winter peak in January, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
As of Monday, there are fewer than 1,200 people in the hospital with the virus, the lowest number of hospitalizations since the omicron variant hit North Carolina in the fall, according to DHHS. More than 70% of adults in North Carolina are considered fully vaccinated.
With the improving COVID-19 numbers, University of North Carolina system schools, including UNC Chapel Hill and N.C. State, have dropped indoor mask requirements beginning Monday.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools voted last week to phase out masks. As of Monday, students and staff could take off their masks outdoors while on school property. Masks will be optional indoors starting April 4, the Monday after spring break.
Durham is the largest school district in the state to continue requiring masks. The Durham school board voted Feb. 24 to continue requiring masks.
“That requirement remains in place even though the city and county are relaxing their own mask requirements effective March 7,” the school system said in a message to parents.
“Our school board is required by law to consider masking requirements every month, and will continue to rely on public health guidance as well as community feedback in order to make the best decision,” Durham Public Schools said.
The Durham school board meets again Thursday, but has not said if members plan to vote again on masks.
Here are the remaining public school districts that, according the School Boards Association, have not voted to end mask mandates as of March 7:
- Bertie County Schools
- Asheville City Schools
- Durham County Schools
- Halifax County Schools
- Weldon City Schools
- Hertford County Schools
- Northampton County
- Warren County Schools
- Washington County Schools