Durham schools considering requiring masks for all students

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – According to Gov. Roy Cooper’s mask mandate, face masks will be required in high schools and middle schools across the state.

The mandate requires students to wear face coverings while on school grounds. That includes both inside and outside the school buildings. Face coverings will also be required on school buses.

The order is not requiring elementary students to wear masks, but they are strongly encouraged to do so.

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Officials with Durham Public Schools said they are considering asking elementary students to wear face coverings as well. However, they are still unsure if they will make this a mandate for the younger students.

“We know it’s a challenge for our younger children, but we think it’s really important for face coverings to be as widely distributed as possible,” said Chip Sudderth, spokesperson for Durham Public Schools.

Sudderth said they will follow requirements outlined by NCDHHS and DPI, as well as requirements that are part of state and local orders.

Sudderth said the district will provide at least three cloth face coverings to every student.

Zyasiya Davenport will be an eighth-grader at Rogers-Herr Middle School this fall. She said she already wears face coverings when going out in public. She has no problem wearing one in the classroom.

Zyasiya Davenport, a rising eighth-grader in Durham, is in favor of wearing masks once schools open back up.

“I will feel very comfortable wearing a face mask because it prevents the spread of germs from student to student so that nobody will get sick during school hours,” Davenport said.

Under the current reopening plan for Durham Public Schools, elementary and middle school students will be attending school in-person and high schools will continue their classes online.

While high school students may not be going back to class this fall, some seniors at Hillside High School like James DeBerry are concerned they will eventually have to wear a face mask in class if they go back in the spring.

“Sitting for hours and having it on, it gets a little tough to breathe,” DeBerry said.

But, overall, students said they understand it has become the new normal.

“It’s for our safety, whatever keeps me safe is fine with me,” said Mason Pickett, a senior at Hillside High School. “I just think we would need to find ways to adjust and get comfortable.”

Parent Moses Davenport said he is in support of the district requiring masks in schools.

“If that’s one of the things there to help, I’m all for that as a parent,” Davenport said.

Sudderth said there will be some exceptions to the mask mandate for students with health problems.

DPS officials said the tentative reopening plan for the district is subject to change. They are still waiting to hear from the governor before they make any final decisions.

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