RALEIGH — State officials recently changed protocols for the return of students to public schools in the fall, and students will now have to wear masks even if they are farther than six feet away from others.
The state's StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit previously stated that schools were to ensure that all of those in the school — students, teachers, staff and adult visitors — wear face coverings when "they are or may be within six feet of another person."
The current toolkit omits that language and now makes mask wearing mandatory at all times unless the person — or family member for a student — states that an exception applies, is eating or is engaged in strenuous physical activity. Masks will also be mandatory for those on a bus or other transportation vehicle, unless the person — or family member for a student — states that an exception applies.
Watauga County Schools Superintendent Scott Elliott said school officials have been working hard to provide parents and teachers with the most accurate information possible while state guidelines are changing daily.
"I know the issue of wearing face coverings is an issue for many people for many different reasons, so it is important that everyone pay attention to this change and think about what it means," Elliott said. "For some, it will be reassuring to know that the face masks will be worn by everyone most of the time. For others, they might want to think about how they prepare their children for this expectation."
The state's guidance also mentions building in time throughout the day when students and staff can take breaks from wearing their masks. Elliott said WCS will work hard to identify safe ways to do so.