Durham school leaders say teachers should have the chance to be vaccinated before returning to the classroom

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Melissa Lee’s four children have been learning from their Durham home for almost a year now.

“To say it’s been interesting is an understatement,” Lee said.

She says online learning has taken a toll on her children and she thinks it’s time for students in Durham to go back to school.

“We hear about what the schools are looking to implement, as far their cleaning procedures that they have and their distancing procedures, and I think they can do this” Lee said. “We just have to have faith in our kids.”

Currently, state lawmakers are considering Senate Bill 37 that would require school districts to allow all students to have the option for in-person learning.

All students in Durham Public Schools are still learning virtually.

DPS’s current plan B would only give elementary students in grades K-5 the option to return for in-person learning, not all grades like Senate Bill 37 would call for.

In addition, DPS’s plan also would include optional Wednesday academics for 6th and 9th-grade students.

DPS board Vice-Chair Mike Lee said the district is currently looking at what changes they may need to make to their current Plan B.

“If the bill happens to become law, we would have no choice in Durham Public Schools but to comply with it,” Lee said.

Back in November, the board voted that in order to be able to reopen for in-person learning, the COVID-19 positivity rate would need to be below four percent for two weeks in Durham County.

Currently, the positivity rate in Durham is at seven percent.

“It would not meet the threshold for us to make that decision at this time, however, if the bill becomes law that wouldn’t be in our hands,” Lee said.

Lee argues that if the bill passes, then teachers should be permitted to get vaccinated before they go back into the classroom.

“Teachers should be given the same consideration as frontline workers,” Lee said.

DPS board member Natalie Beyer argues the bill should also come with funding for PPE, ventilation, as well as funding to hire more nurses and custodial staff that she said will be needed if students return to school.

“When we talk about potentially bringing thousands of students back, we want to have the support in place before we do that,” Beyer said.

Across the country, more than 20 states have started allowing teachers to get vaccinated.

The Durham Public Schools Board will be discussing plans for in-person learning at their next work session which is on Thursday, Feb. 11th at 5 p.m.

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