Durham school leaders vote to keep March 15 date for return to in-person learning

COVID-19 and schools

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – In a split vote, Durham Public Schools leaders opted not to push back returning students to in-person learning.

In a Feb. 18 meeting, the school board voted 5-2 to begin phasing students into in-person learning rotations beginning on March 15. Then, on Tuesday, the board considered a motion to push that date back to April 8.

That motion was denied in a 4-3 vote. Chairperson Bettina Umstead had the deciding vote.

“I want to acknowledge the voices that we’re hearing that are wanting to have the option to return,” Umstead said. “I believe that we can do this safely. …We need to make sure that people have what they need.”

Some board members wanted the start date pushed back to April 8.

“Pushing this date out to April 8 will allow almost everyone to get the first doses of the vaccine. It will allow all of March for us to continue the preparations needed,” said Matt Sears.

Under the plan decided on Feb. 18, elementary students will return to classrooms on March 15. Middle and high school students will return in cohorts beginning April 8.

Specialty high school students will be back on March 18.

Grades six through 12 will be split into three cohorts. They’ll alternate being in classrooms for two days at a time — on Mondays and Tuesdays, then Thursdays and Fridays, with Wednesdays being “Wellness Wednesdays.”

“I cannot deny those parents that are ready for in person instruction. The staggered approach will put less pressure on our system then everybody going back on the same day,” said board member Jovonia Lewis.

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