CCSD votes against making masks optional

Published 10:00 am Friday, October 29, 2021

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The Chambers County School Board mostly voted against making masks optional during their meeting Wednesday night.

CCSD Superintendent Casey Chambley gave an update on the system’s COVID-19 numbers and made the recommendation to make masks optional. However, the board voted 3-2 against the proposal. For a vote to pass either way, a side must have four votes.

Board member Jeffrey Finch, Candace Lyons and LaShae Herring voted against while Jay Siggers and Vicki Leak voted in favor. Board member William Martin missed the meeting.

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“Our COVID numbers have plummeted, thank goodness,” Chambley said. “We are seeing a drastic decrease in our schools and in the county with COVID numbers. Our COVID school numbers for the school district, we’ve had no new cases reported since Oct. 15. And we’ve had one student quarantined due to a sibling on Oct. 21.”

Chambley said that according to EMA data for Chambers County, the county is at a moderate transmission level, as opposed to low, substantial, or high. He said the transmission rate has gone down from 7.1 percent to 4 percent since Oct. 19.

“I think since Oct. 25, I think there might have been about 150 tests, and in a seven-day period before that, there were only six positives from the 150 tests,” he said.

Chambley gave credit for the reduced numbers to immunity and vaccinations.

He said that after talking to other officials and superintendents around the state, he wanted to  recommend making masks optional in Chambers County Schools. He said buildings would still be cleaned, and masks would still be offered. There would still be hand sanitizer units and social distancing.

“If we have another spike, another variant exposes itself, we can just as easily move back to [requiring masks] later if we need to do so,” Chambley said.

He guessed that about 30 percent of students and some employees would continue to wear masks if they were made optional.

Finch expressed his concern that Chambley’s recommendation may be premature.

“When something is airborne, you can get it [in] your vehicle, you can get it in a grocery store, you can get it at the doctor’s office,” Finch said before voting no.

Chambley explained that his rationale was based on a previous school board announcement that the school district would monitor numbers, and when they went down to a safe level, would remove its mask mandate.

Siggers was in favor of Chambley’s recommendation, saying he rarely wears his mask. He said that while the recommendation may be premature, the school board could always put the mask requirement back in place.

Leak said she thinks its time to put masks away unless parents want their kids to wear them.

“Wearing a mask is like putting up a chainlink fence to keep mosquitos out,” she said.

In disagreement with Leak, Chambley said he thinks masks have helped decrease numbers.

Loretta Cofield, lead nurse for CCSD, said she was on the fence and that if Chambley’s recommendation went into effect, students with COVID-positive family members should still be allowed to quarantine. She explained that COVID-19 spreads easily through families. She stated that masks are scientifically proven to be effective at reducing the spread of COVID-19.