Mecklenburg Area Catholic Schools maintaining optional masks guidance for students, staff

All nine schools in the MACS system are mask optional.
Published: Aug. 19, 2021 at 7:35 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Mecklenburg Area Catholic Schools is giving students a choice when it comes to wearing masks at school.

In a letter sent to parents on Thursday, Catholic Schools Superintendent Dr. Gregory Moore said they are maintaining mask optional guidance following the county’s mask mandate that was announced Wednesday.

“We believe parents and guardians know their children best, so we respect their ability to choose when it is appropriate for their student to wear a face covering,” Dr. Monroe said in his letter to parents. “This approach aligns with our mission that recognizes parents as the primary educators of their children, and is appropriate given current health data. That data shows children are at lower risk of contracting and experiencing severe complications from COVID-19. The Delta variant, while more contagious, has not been shown to put children at higher risk of severe complications. Additionally, health experts say the COVID-19 vaccine protects older populations with whom children might come into contact.”

The county-wide public health rule requires everyone to wear a mask inside of businesses, establishments, and other public spaces.

Additionally, all businesses, establishments, and public places must require that all people wear Face Coverings when indoors on their premises.

There is a religious exemption to the public health rule.

“I have opted not to send my son Charlie to school in the mask. That’s right now, it’s a day-by-day decision,” said parent Melissa Swanson.

All nine schools in the MACS system are mask optional. It’s worth noting that MACS held in-person instruction through the 2020-2021 school year and masks were required in the school for staff and students.

Swanson says she understands the county and national health guidance but is following the school’s direction on optional masking.

She says she and other parents are respecting each other’s decisions on whether their children wear a mask or not.

“We respect their decision, they respect my decision,” Swanson said.

Jessica Clarke-Pounder has two children in MACS. She’s a neonatologist in Charlotte and as a physician who’s seen the impacts of COVID-19, says the school system should require masks under the county public health rule.

“We have seen the effects of COVID in this hospital throughout the last 18 months and I am very hopeful that a vaccine for children will be coming out soon but I believe and the data has proven that masks are effective in reducing the spread,” Clarke-Pounder said.

The school system’s COVID-19 guidelines outlined in “Faithfully Forward” include hand washing, social distancing, and contact tracing.

Swanson says her son was involved in contact tracing last year, a moment of uncertainty but something she said made her feel safe and informed.

“We’re very cautious, we’re careful, we’re aware. We know what’s going on and again we just leave it in the hands of our leaders,” Swanson said.

Clarke-Pounder says she would be open to optional masks if more children under 12 could get vaccinated but she says until cases improve, she says masks in schools are the best option.

”My plea to MACS would be in order to promote the best chance possible of keeping our kids in school this year is to have everybody masked,” Clarke-Pounder said.

Superintendent Moore says they will continue to monitor the effects of the pandemic and evaluate data as needed to make sure they are maintaining a safe learning environment.

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