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Dare school board meets Sept. 1 amid controversy

The Dare County Board of Education will meet in a special called session on Wednesday, September 1, 2021 at 5 p.m. at First Flight High School.

The official notice spells out the purpose of the meeting: “to review and consider local COVID data since the start of the 2021-202 school year and local implementation of the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit (K-12).”

Under board meeting procedures, public comment periods are not provided during special called meetings. The no comment procedure was explained in the official notice and again in an email message from Board of Education Chair Mary Ellon Ballance sent Thursday, Aug. 26.

The controversy over students wearing masks continues.

At the first consideration of the issue, the board voted 6-1 to make mask wearing in Dare County schools optional, also phrased as parental choice.

Those opposed to mask wearing dominated the crowd. Ballance threatened to clear the gymnasium four times to quiet the crowd.

For the September 1 meeting, one Facebook page is encouraging anti-mask people to bring homemade signs as was done at the first meeting. That page charges making children wear masks is “child abuse.”

On the other hand, Tim Shearin, the chair of the Dare County Board of Health and Human Services, wrote an Aug. 25 letter to the Dare County Board of Education asking members to support universal masking, stating that benefits of face coverings are clear in stopping the spread of COVID-19.

He asked for an emergency meeting to hear from health care providers such as Dr. Christian Lige, nurse practitioner Alexis Hodges, president of The Outer Banks Hospital Ronnie Sloane, chief of staff of the Outer Banks Medical Group Dr. Dan Dwyer and state medical director Betsy Tilson.

“There’s no way everybody is going to be happy at the end of this,” said Ballance commented.

The school board is slated to review COVID-19 data.

The Dare County Schools website carries a COVID-19 dashboard giving the numbers of active cases and quarantines in each school. At the top of the chart is this statement, “This dashboard is a daily snapshot of students/staff who are not in school due to being in isolation or quarantine.”

On Monday, August 23, active cases among students numbered 39; on Friday, August 27, active cases among students numbered 63, an increase of 24 cases. On Monday, August 23, the number of students in quarantine was 82; on Friday, August 27, the number of students in quarantine was 193, an increase of 111 students.

Initially, the dashboard reported only support staff. By Thursday, that report changed to “all DCS employees.” On Friday, August 27, employees with active cases numbered six with four in quarantine.

The latest information is presented in the accompanying chart:

school

Courtesy DCS

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