BOONE — The Watauga County Board of Education heard a presentation on the 2020-21 audit report as well as a human resources update when it met for its monthly meeting on Oct. 11.
The board also unanimously approved its consent agenda, which included re-approving the current policy regarding the use of face coverings by employees and students in schools. School boards are required by the state to vote on the mask policy monthly, and having the policy in the consent agenda met the requirement.
Two community members — Michael Ackerman and Julie Gough — spoke to the board during the public comment period, which was moved to earlier in the meeting and asked them to not require masks for students.
Gough claimed there was more risk to children from the common flu than from COVID-19. AppHealthCare Health Director Jennifer Greene was also at the meeting to give an update on COVID-19 and said she has heard the claim that the flu is not as bad.
“I hear a lot is ‘Why are we making a big deal about COVID? It really doesn’t matter because we don’t make a big deal about the flu,’” Greene said. “Here’s one of the reasons that we do. In North Carolina, in our state in the past decade, we lost 1,275 people to the flu. In just the past 16 months, this was September backwards, when the pandemic began, we lost over 14,000 people.”
The data Greene referred to was from early September as now more than 17,200 people have died from COVID-19 as of Oct. 12, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
Since June 21, Watauga County Schools nurses have conducted 2,527 student case investigations related to COVID-19 with 192 testing positive. Seventeen tested positive during the week of Oct. 4 to Oct. 8.
The board also heard a presentation of the 2020-21 audit report. The auditing firm issued a clean auditing report, which means there was nothing that came to the firm’s attention that would cause them to modify the report. It’s the highest level of assurance that a firm can give on a set of financial statements, according to presenter Mike Wike.
The firm did report that the child nutrition program lost money, which hasn’t really happened in the past. Wike said it was not really a cause for concern, as it made sense not a lot of meals were given out last year due to COVID-19, which caused the total revenue to drop.
The board also recognized the principals in WCS, which the board does every October. WCS Superintendent Scott Elliott said he was grateful to the principals and he said he thinks WCS has an outstanding team of principals.
The board also heard an update on human resources in WCS from Stephen Martin, and a curriculum and instruction update from Meredith Jones, director of middle grades education.
The board is next scheduled to meet on Nov. 9.