At Tuesday night’s meeting of the Union County Board of Education, local educators showed up to make the case that reopening for in-person instruction is too risky given the county’s high COVID infection rates.
Their comments fell on deaf ears.
Union County’s percent positive test rate is hovering around 10%, which is double the CDC Director’s recommended level for districts to consider opening for students.
Pam Carlton, president of Union County Association of Educators (UCAE), rose to present survey data she and her colleagues collected on employee comfort level with returning to in-person instruction. Ms. Carlton was cut off before she could finish–despite board policy which allows representatives of groups extended speaking time.
The data UCAE collected shows that more than 83% of Union County Public Schools employees would prefer opening schools in Plan C, fully remote instruction.
Of survey respondents, only 8.6% said they were comfortable with Union County’s current return to work plan.
Local educators Sophia Stephenson and Brittany Gendron also spoke on behalf of educators who are concerned about their own safety and that of their students.
Stephenson referred to the current plan as “Russian roulette.” Gendron told the board she was prepared during lockdowns to take a bullet for her students and that “COVID is a bullet we can see coming. It’s already here.”
Board chair Melissa Merrell and her colleagues were unmoved by the comments and showed no sign of budging on the district’s plan to open to students on August 17. Merrell noted that “it was a decision handed down by the governor for Plan B” but did not mention that Governor Cooper’s approach allows for communities hit hard by COVID to open in Plan C.
Over half of North Carolina’s 115 school districts have opted to open in some form of remote learning.
As Union County’s board meeting ended, Brittany Gendron was overcome with emotion and broke down, saying “83 percent of staff want Plan C. You won’t even consider it?”
The official Union County Public Schools livestream quickly cut off, but the moment was captured by a WBTV reporter: