The Columbia County Board of Education will be withdrawing its requirements for students and faculty to wear face-coverings beginning Sept. 29.
School Superintendent Steven Flynt announced the rescinding of the mask mandate during the board’s regular session Tuesday.
Flynt noted the decrease in positive COVID-19 cases among since mitigation measures, including the mask requirement, were put in place.
“We are aware that these cases are trending downward over the past month,” said Flynt. “We are looking to move to less mitigation strategy including removing the requirement to wear face coverings inside the buildings and on school busses.”
As of the end of last week, Flynt said, the number positive cases throughout the district had decreased to 102.
“We’ve seen a very good decline,” said Flynt. “As we’ve brought you the mitigation strategies, I think we were pretty clear to say that as we saw the numbers decrease, we would try to go back as well, and that’s where we are today.”
Flynt thanked everyone in the school district, emphasizing that the administration would continue to monitor positive cases and would change measures if results necessitated it. He also noted that schools would continue to encourage wearing masks where students spend time in close contact and provide opportunities for frequent handwashing and sanitizing.
Public participation still yielded a response to the district’s mask requirements.
Kimberly Caldwell spoke before the board about her decision to resign from teaching at Grovetown High School after being refused an exemption from the mask requirement for personal religious and medical reasons.
Caldwell cited her exemption letter, noting a violent assault she experienced at age 23 that had resulted in her experiencing, syncope, or intense spells of fatigue and nausea, when cloth covers her face.
“It is wrong that I faced a year of trauma and was asked to reveal my personal business only to be dismissed so easily,” said Caldwell. “I resigned under duress. A huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. I carried the weight while doing the very best for our students. Saying goodbye to my students yesterday made me feel like I should have fought a little harder I was beaten down and you should be ashamed.”
The board unanimously approved an increase in pay for substitute teachers after a proposal by Flynt. Beginning Oct. 1, certified substitutes working fewer than 10 consecutive days will be paid $110 per day, and long-term certified substitutes will be paid $150 per day. Pay for non-certified substitutes was increased to $105 per day.
The board recognized Evans High School student Elizabeth Stupec, who had been selected for the Georgia Student Advisory Council. The council is comprised of students from districts throughout the state in grades nine through 12 who act as liaisons between the department of education and local students. Members meet during the school year with State School Superintendent Richard Woods to discuss how decisions made at the state level affect them.