The Catawba County Board of Education held an emergency meeting Wednesday to discuss reopening schools.
Board of Education Chairman Glenn Fulbright said the meeting was called because the board needed to discuss new information and data.
But new information and data did not change the plan the board had in place.
The district school year is still set to begin on Aug. 17. Students will attend school two days a week and learn remotely three days a week.
Students, with the help of parents, also have the option to attend school remotely five days a week.
Board members Cathy Starnes and Leslie Barnette said they still have concerns about the virus but understand students are ready to return to school.
During the meeting, members of the administration answered questions from Catawba County teachers and the school board. Questions included: “Are teachers prepared if they have to move to Plan C?” and “How will the district respond if a teacher tests positive while at school?”
“We feel extremely confident to move into Plan C if we have to,” Assistant Superintendent DeAnna Finger said. She added teachers are being instructed on how to teach under Plan B and Plan C.
Plan B is the option for students to participate in face-to-face instruction part of the week. Plan C is remote learning only for students.
Rae Thompson, director of personnel development, said protocols have been established in the event a teacher displays COVID-19 symptoms while at school.
The district has plans depending on if an employee has tested positive for COVID-19, has COVID-19 symptoms or had close contact with someone who has tested positive, Thompson said. One action is consistent across all three scenarios: Teachers will be asked to seek medical attention and self-quarantine.
The district is continuing to survey teachers and staff about their concerns.
More than 1,600 teachers and staff responded to the survey asking them how they feel about returning to school during the pandemic, according to Marty Sharpe with the school district.
More than 27 percent of staff said they are ready to return to teaching and working at school. Just under 25 percent said they are comfortable returning to work part-time. Approximately 24 percent said they don’t feel comfortable returning to work until the COVID-19 numbers are in line with the CDC’s recommendations of 5 percent transmission rate or lower in the county. And nearly 20 percent said they are ready to go back but would like to go back to remote teaching if COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
Staff members also responded to a survey where they were asked if they planned to return to their assigned school on Aug. 10. Nearly 97 percent said yes.
“How can we expect students to go back to school when the school board doesn’t meet in person?” Board member Leslie Barnette asked during the meeting.
Stover said they are trying to follow the limit of having only 10 people meet in one location. He said they can gather as they are exempt from the executive order if they follow social-distancing guidelines.
School board attorney Crystal Davis said more people are able to access the meeting if they are virtual. “I think this has been a benefit to the public,” she said.
The board agreed to discuss resuming face-to-face board meetings in the future.
More than 600 people watched the meeting on YouTube Wednesday night.
Davis said the board received over 490 comments from the public before the meeting. She said 88 percent of them were in favor of a return to the classroom, while 12 percent wanted to continue remote learning.
“The number one priority is safety,” chairman Fulbright said.
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