The Orange County Board of Education approved new plans to track COVID-19 infections in schools and create a threshold for reinstating mask mandates during its Monday meeting.
The board unanimously approved the changes. The decision comes after last month's vote to lift the mask mandate in district schools.
Deputy Superintendent of Operations Patrick Abele presented the plan. He said masks will remain optional in schools as long as positivity rates stay below two percent.
If more than two percent of the student population at a given school tests positive within a seven-day period, masking will be reinstated for the next school week.
However, Abele said the actual number of cases that equals two percent varies by school. For example, Orange High would need 26 positive cases, while Central Elementary would only need six. The average number across all schools is 10 positive cases.
Abele said schools will conduct weekly case assessments, examining positives from the previous weeks and alerting families to changes in masking requirements for the week by no later than 6 p.m. on Sundays.
If less than two percent of the student population tests positive following a week of masking, masking will once again become optional.
The approved plan also made note of existing exemptions — both for masking and unmasking. Abele said if mandatory masking is reinstated, students with a valid ADA accommodation or exemption will still be allowed to refrain from masking.
Similarly, while masking remains optional, students with a recognized need to continue masking will still be encouraged by staff to keep their masks on.