Durham Public Schools becomes latest school district to mandate masks indoors

Durham Public Schools joins the long list of school districts asking everyone, students and staff, to mask up despite their vaccination status.

Board members voted unanimously to approve the plan in a board meeting Thursday night. Traditional calendar students start on August 24.

"I think the protocols are in place as long as we are all in this together," said Pascal Mubenga, superintendent of Durham Public Schools.

Mubenga said they also need to increase the vaccination rate in the county and they will try and use schools as sites when possible

"It's going to take the faith-based community. It's going to take businesses. It's going to take everybody to make sure our numbers go up which will allow us to make sure our schools are going to stay open," he said.

Students will also have to wear masks on buses, which will be at full capacity.

Temperature screenings will not be done this year when students come to school. Superintendent Mubenga said it would take far too long for them to complete and they are not recommended by NCDHHS.

DPS also said cafeterias will be used but they are strongly encouraging schools to use outdoor spaces for meals when the weather allows.

The district is also asking students to maintain a minimum of 3-feet distance within school settings to the greatest extent possible.

"Let's be pragmatic," said Jay Hankins, who spoke before the Durham Board of Education Thursday. "Let's be flexible but let's continue to not wish it's all over. Let's realize we have work ahead of us."

He and his wife Brandy Stewart are sending their 11-year-old back to Durham's School of the Arts at the end of August for the first time in nearly 18 months.

Brandy wants to know, "What the plan is for what will happen when we do have these inevitable clusters that come up due to Delta variants?"

"I just want to see what DPS' plan is for these kids when they are quarantined because I haven't seen anything specific yet," she continues.

ABC11 reached out to DPS to clarify what happens if students are sent home and didn't hear back.

Brandy believes teachers will be responsible for uploading assignments but there is no online learning program for them to pivot to.

Durham's virtual academy or Ignite Academy is separate. It has enrolled 700 students.
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