The Polk County Board of Education voted Monday to make face coverings encouraged, but optional, for students and staff for the start of the 2021-22 school year.

During a specially called meeting at Polk County Middle School, the board voted 6-1 to provide students and staff the option of whether to wear face coverings as protection from the COVID-19 virus.

Students at Polk County Early College begin classes on Monday, Aug. 9 while all other Polk County Schools students will report for the first day of classes on Monday, Aug. 23.

The board will also consider additional measures relating to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ StrongSchools NC Public Health Toolkit at its regular monthly meeting on August 9.