A new petition drive has gained approximately 800 signatures, as of this afternoon, asking the Johnston County Public School Board to begin the new school year in August under Plan C. Proponents of the latest petition include a number of Johnston County teachers who want to return next month with 100 percent remote learning with a plan in place to transition to Plan B, when it is safe for all to return.
The petition states, “Our educators want to be back in the classroom with our students, but not all of us feel safe. We miss working in the school environment, but is the death of a colleague worth it? Unfortunately, during these unprecedented times, there is no good option regarding school reopening. No one wins! The most important thing that needs to happen is keeping EVERYONE safe and to stop the spread of this deadly virus. It is simply unsafe at this time to return, no matter how passionately we would prefer to be teaching in our classrooms. In order to return to school safely for ALL the following facts and statistics cannot be ignored.”
Sam Carter, a teacher at Four Oaks Middle School, is one of the supporters of the petition and opening under Plan C. “With cases in Johnston County and North Carolina continuing to rise, now is not the time to rush back into classrooms. Per capita, Johnston County currently has a higher number of cases (150 per 100,000) than any urban county except for Mecklenburg, and we’re tied with Durham County, which has a 60 percent larger population. Not only that, with daycares and summer camps opening in other states we are starting to see a great deal of evidence that, yes, children can and do get sick and even die from COVID-19. 31% of children in Florida, one of the current hotspots for the disease in this country, who have been tested, have tested positive. In NC, 11% of positive cases are children under the age of 18, and 45% of cases are people between the ages of 25-49, which is an age group that includes a huge number of educational staff. For a little perspective, that percentage of children who have tested positive comes out to about 11,000 people. Imagine if every single person in the town of Smithfield was sick (and then some), and that’s how many people we’re talking about.”
“Face to face learning does indeed have its benefits over distance learning, especially for younger students, but we have to consider how different things will have to be in the current pandemic. How will your child feel about having to stay 6 feet away from their friends at all times? Only getting to take their masks off to eat lunch, when they still don’t get to be any closer to their friends? How will their elective/special classes like art or music be able to work when nobody can share any materials? How will they feel when the teachers and friends they’ve grown to love get sick? What if one of them dies? As teachers, we all want to be back in our classrooms and for things to settle down, but we can only do that if we can come back safely, and right now we are not prepared to do that,” Mr. Carter said Tuesday in an email.
Jonathan Quick, a parent of a Johnston County school student said he supports Plan C and the start of the school year with virtual instruction for several reasons. “Exposure to COVID-19 is lethal for seniors and people with chronic health conditions. The Fall season is expected to bring a resurgence of COVID-19 infections as people congregate together indoors. JCPS is not currently prepared to provide school bus pickup without exposing bus riders to children with COVID-19. Children ages 10 – 19 spread COVID-19 just like adults, and public schools are a breeding ground for transmission of COVID-19. Teachers and students who become infected with COVID-19 will carry the virus home and infect vulnerable family members. Three vaccine candidates have entered Phase 3 trials and should become available to the public by next Spring. With a vaccine likely to become available early next year, there is no good reason to unnecessarily expose parents, students, teachers and their loved ones to COVID-19 infection by rushing the return to face-to-face instruction in JCPS. A few more months of online instruction will limit the further spread of COVID-19 in Johnston County and protect the elderly from a deadly virus. JCPS should start the school year with online-only instruction and put together plans for a return to face-to-face instruction when a vaccine becomes available early next year.”
To read more about the petition click here.
There are three different plans for reopening schools in North Carolina:
Plan A (Minimal social distancing): Open for all students in school at the same time. Schools would have some enhanced health protocols. Traditional instruction would take place with preparation for blended learning.
Plan B (Moderate Social distancing): Open, but mandates both social distancing and the wearing of face masks, along with enhanced health protocols as outlined by DHSS. In Plan B, instruction is a hybrid of face-to-face and remote learning.
Plan C (Remote Learning): No students in school facilities. 100% remote learning for all students.
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