CABARRUS COUNTY, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — The Cabarrus County School Board voted Monday to return to a mask-optional system within schools. The vote was 6-1 in favor of mask optional, with board members utilizing a new metric system to base their decisions on.

The district previously had been using a four-metric system to determine whether students should or shouldn’t mask in schools. If three of the four metrics were in the “green” or “yellow” zone, the district would vote to go mask optional.

On Monday, the board voted to include a fifth metric that accounts for the number of positive staff members. The most recent data placed the fifth metric in the “green” zone. With three of five metrics in “green” or “yellow,” most board members felt comfortable eliminating the district’s mask requirement.

Prior to the meeting, parents and students gathered outside district headquarters for a protest in favor of a mask-optional decision.

“It’s expected. People are at a level of frustration, a very high level of frustration. It’s been almost two years. They’re tired,” said Board Chair Holly Grimsley.

Students also said they planned to protest in schools Monday by not wearing a mask despite the district mandate. The district ended up cancelling classes due to inclement weather in parts of the county. Some parents found the move suspicious.

The students who planned to protest when they returned to classroom on Tuesday will no longer have to, thanks to the new mask-optional decision.

“The word is out that there was a lot of worry. Administration had a lot of worry about it,” said Elizabeth Rorie with Moms for Liberty. “It just felt very coincidental.”

“It’s very uncomfortable. It gives headaches, it’s hard to breathe. Kids my age obviously break out from sweating in gym just wearing it,” said West Cabarrus High School Ninth Grader Brody Bloxham, who says he planned to take part in the protest.

Per state policy, students and staff are still required to wear masks on school buses. The district will vote on masks again next month.

This move comes as more than 100 teachers in the county have quit since the beginning of the school year. Queen City News broke the story last month of the school board voting to give executives and administrators big bonuses. Now, teacher bonuses are on the table.

Like many school districts across the country, Cabarrus County is struggling to maintain enough teachers and substitutes.