RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Children now make up more than a quarter of COVID-19 cases nationwide and nearly a third of them in North Carolina.

The Wake County Public School System reported a dozen COVID clusters in the past month. The state reports there are 17 clusters in schools overall in the county.

“Our educators are hyper-focused on making sure the mask compliance is happening with fidelity in their classrooms,” said Kristin Beller, president of the Wake North Carolina Association of Educators.

Beller said the vulnerable times are lunch and recess where kids might not be social distancing or masking.

She said it can be difficult to monitor students during those instances with the current staffing shortages, so NCAE is pushing for more state funding to get more staffing in place.

“Unmasked exposures means quarantines, right? So the impact goes farther than even just whether or not you have actually contracted COVID-19 yourself,” said Beller.

As of last week, 31 percent of COVID cases in North Carolina are people under 17 years old.

“As we see cases increase in the community, we expect we’ll see cases trickle down to kids,” said Dr. Ibukun Kalu, pediatric disease physician at Duke University.

Kalu said because those under 12 can’t get vaccinated, it’s even more important for those who can to get their shot.

“If we don’t get rates as high as possible, we’ll unfortunately still continue to see spread and unfortunately see it trickle into our vulnerable kids,” said Kalu.

She added it’s important to keep tracking cases at schools to make sure the proper protocols are in place.