Wake County school board votes for a return to in-person learning

COVID-19 and schools

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Students in Wake County are set to go back to the classroom after the county’s school board approved a proposal for a return to in-person learning.

The Wake County Board of Education approved the measure by an 8-1 vote. Dr. Jim Martin was the lone dissident of the proposal.

Leaders said in-person learning will start back up on Feb. 15.

Pre-K through third grade and regional special education programs will return to school full-time;. Fourth through 12th grades will return in three-week rotations.

While many students are excited to get back to the classrooms, the plan leaves some teachers worried and some parents frustrated.

Attorney Anthony Biller sent a letter to the governor, the state school superintendent, and the Wake County School Board on behalf of a group of parents and a few teachers who want schools to fully reopen.

“Don’t open them partway. Open them all the way to those students who want to attend,” he said.
“We believe no students in the public schools, that are effectively banned either part-time or full-time from the classroom, are getting adequate public education.”

Kristin Beller with Wake NCAE wants to get back to the classroom, but said teachers must feel safe. And with no social distancing requirements for the early-elementary grades, some teachers don’t.

“Safety, since the beginning of the pandemic, has been the 3Ws. We are not requiring one of those Ws.”

That led Martin to vote against the reopening plan. The board did ask the superintendent to find ways to help schools implement distancing in pre-K through third grades whenever possible, but Beller said she’s worried without a guarantee of social distancing or a vaccine for teachers.

“That is not just disappointing, it feels reckless,” she said. “In a period where we have not only high levels of the virus, but new variants coming to North Carolina.”

Cooper said research shows in-person learning can be done safely.

Many parents in Wake County were also in support of a return to in-person learning.

In a survey conducted by WCPSS, 46.8 percent of the parents surveyed are “very comfortable” with returning all students to the building every day as soon as possible, even if recommended social distancing cannot be guaranteed.”

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