Face Coverings Required in Pre-K to Grade 6, Effective Nov. 29 – Jan. 1

Return to Learn logo with text "2021-2022 Updates"

Effective Monday, Nov. 29 upon return from the Thanksgiving break, Henderson County Public Schools (HCPS) students, staff, and visitors will be required to wear face coverings in Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 6 during instructional hours, through the end of December.

The requirement will apply to all students, staff, and visitors in K-6 spaces during instructional hours. Effective Jan. 1, 2022, face coverings would once again become optional in Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 6.

This is a change to the Henderson County Board of Public Education’s Nov. 8 decision, which made face coverings optional in all indoor settings across all grade levels. Discussed extensively on Monday and at the Nov. 8 board meeting, this timeline would allow families who wished to have their elementary and 6th grade children receive both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine the opportunity to do so, since children ages 5-11 have only recently become eligible to receive the vaccine.

At the Nov. 8 meeting, board members had acknowledged that transitioning to a face-coverings-optional environment would likely result in an increase in student quarantines based on vaccination status, and indicated that the board would closely track these data points throughout the week of Nov. 15-19 to determine if revisiting their decision was warranted.

Per current NCDHHS guidance, there are 3 exceptions to quarantine, including the following: Students who are not fully vaccinated after a close contact in a classroom or other school setting if masks were being worn appropriately and consistently by both the person with COVID-19 and the potentially exposed person do NOT need to quarantine. In a face-coverings-optional setting, this means that even individuals wearing a face covering would still have to quarantine if the other person in a close contact situation was not wearing a face covering.

During Monday’s meeting, Superintendent Dr. John Bryant reviewed the positivity and quarantine rates for the week of Nov. 15-19; according to the data provided to HCPS by public health officials, each week prior to Nov. 8 saw a decrease in positive cases and resulting quarantines – but on the week of Nov. 15-19 the numbers increased threefold and fivefold, respectively. By school level that week, there were 40 positives and 56 resulting quarantines in elementary schools, 12 positives and 60 quarantines in middle schools, and 9 positives and 24 quarantines in high schools.

The school board will vote again on face covering guidance at its regularly scheduled Dec. 13 meeting, per Senate Bill 654, which requires all North Carolina school districts to vote at least once a month about whether to maintain or amend its existing face covering policy.

Today’s changes to face covering requirements will be communicated to families, and updated on the district’s Return to Learn website on Tuesday, Nov. 23.

District administrators and school board members remain committed to monitoring community health trends and adjusting school system operations in the interest of student, staff, and public health. Return to Learn plans will continue to be fluid models and contingent on local health data and the stability of the HCPS workforce.

Instructional “Return to Learn” plans will continue to be evaluated and refined based on current health data, as well as federal, state, and local guidelines. Any additional changes will be communicated to HCPS families via SwiftK12 emails and phone calls. Current district plans are also updated online at www.HCPSNC.org/ReturnToLearn.

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This page was last modified by Molly McGowan-Gorsuch on Nov 22, 2021 @ 2:00 pm