Durham Public Schools puts plan to return to in-person instruction on hold

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Durham Public Schools had a plan in place to return to in-person instruction. It involved some teachers returning to schools Monday.

At a Board meeting Thursday evening, members expressed concern, asking for more time, putting that plan in jeopardy.

Much of the decision to return for in-person instruction was based on Senate Bill 37, which would require them to provide an in-person learning option.

It’s passed the General Assembly and is now on the Governor’s desk.

With uncertainty about whether or not the governor will sign it, the Board opted to wait and see.

Superintendent Pascal Mubenga provided an update on vaccinations. He said about 1,800 employees want a shot. He said about 1,000 of them could get one by Monday.

They’ve got personal protective equipment and plans for social distancing.

Still the results of a recent survey show only about half of all families plan to send their child back for in-person instruction.

“It’s a lot, it’s a lot. It’s stressful, I can tell you that,” Antoinette King, a parent said.

King is wrestling with that decision for her son, Ramsey.

Board members also concerned.

Elementary school students were supposed to be back in the classroom on March 15. Middle and high schoolers would return on April 8.

“We have teachers as well as a few parents that have been a part of the task force. We were planning to open school in August. We have been putting these things in place,” Superintendent Mubenga said.

Then Thursday an about-face. Board members arguing teachers should be vaccinated first, that plans were rushed.

“We picked this date because the General Assembly picked this date. This wasn’t a Durham date,” Natalie Beyer, DPS Board Member said.

“The impact of that decision is causing a lot of chaos and a lot of emotion for people in our community and so I want to acknowledge that that is happening,” Bettina Umstead, DPS Board Chair said.

Some teachers slated to return to school Monday. The Board allowing them to be virtual Monday and Tuesday. They’ll be closely watching if Cooper signs that bill. It leaves parents like King with more uncertainty.

“That kinda like irritates me cause one moment we like we set, set in stone and they’re not going to send them back,” King said.

The Board will hold a special meeting Tuesday to discuss how best to move forward.

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