More than 150 students and staff are quarantined as officials monitor 14 active cases of COVID-19 at Union Academy (UA) Charter School.
As of Monday, UA reported 14 active COVID-19 cases and more than 150 students and staff quarantined due to possible exposure. In making these decisions, officials said the school followed the state’s required quarantine guidelines.
In response to this level of outbreak and quarantine, school leaders made the decision to implement a universal mask mandate K-12, allowing only for documented exemptions for medical reasons. Officials say the Board made this decision to ensure students would be able to remain in school.
Previously, the school had followed a more accommodating exemption policy, in which exemptions were approved for any reason without exception.
Now the charter school is requiring all students, staff, volunteers, and visitors to wear face coverings indoors beginning Aug. 2. The issue will be revisited on Sept. 2.
“If we had been fully masked, all of staff and students, we would have had 14 or 15 students in quarantine not 150,” said Head of School, John Marshall. “We feel like going to the universal masking of our community indoors, is absolutely the right decision at this time.”
Some parents say this is the right choice and didn’t understand why the mask policy was relaxed in the first place.
“I see the uptick happening now. Working in EMS, our COVID-related calls are going up again. I work in a nursing home that’s starting to get cases. Again,” said Jessica Perry who has two kids at UA.
She says keeping children in school should be the priority no matter what.
“My oldest has ADHD and is on the autism spectrum. During the remote learning, I’m really surprised he passed his grade level. He really struggled, he really needs to be in school in person,” she said. “If it means we all need to wear masks, and get vaccinated, we need to do what we can to keep out kids in school in person.”
But other families say that’s not a choice for them.
“She cried herself to sleep last night because she couldn’t go to school. She’s 6 years old. She doesn’t’ understand why,” said Deb Helms whose daughter goes to UA.
Helms says her daughter gets nose bleeds because of masks. Because of that, she needs a medical note and approval from UA before her daughter can go back to school without wearing one.
“There are cases where children are medically compromised where they need to wear a mask to protect themselves. But there are cases such as mine where she cannot wear a mask. She deserves an opportunity for education,” she said.
Helms is now waiting to get her child into a doctor’s appointment as soon as possible.
She says if the note is not approved by Union Academy, she will look into her daughter attending a Union County public school instead this fall, where masks are currently optional.