Brunswick Co. schools superintendent given emergency powers

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Brunswick County School Board meeting on March 20, 2020 (Photo: Brunswick County Schools/Vimeo)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Brunswick County School leaders are relying on the superintendent to make decisions moving forward in the Coronavirus outbreak.

The Brunswick County School Board held an emergency meeting this morning to get an update on the school and discuss next steps.

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The school board voted four to one to give superintendent Jerry Oates emergency powers until at least May 5.  This means, Oates has the authority to take any lawful actions necessary to ensure the continuation of public education, to provide for the health and safety of students and employees, or to respond to direction from appropriate health and government authorities.

School board member Gerald Benton did not vote after bringing up concerns about giving the superintendent this power. Benton wanted to elect one of the board members to make decisions.

Former superintendent Les Tubb spoke at the meeting about how important this kind of emergency power was for him during hurricane Florence.



“If this pandemic continues and our hospitals get overrun, where will we go? It’s not taking away your oversight for resources, because he is going to have to justify what he does. It just gives him the opportunity to make those decisions very quickly,” Tubb said.

Superintendent Oates said this situation is different than any other.

“Southeast North Carolina, we know how to deal with hurricanes. Folks in the west know how to deal with snow. No one knows how to deal with COVID-19 and that’s kind of where we are. Every step we make is in the dark,” Oates said.

Oates also gave the school board an update on what is happening in the school district. He commended the teachers for all of their hard work planning, teaching and communicating with students and parents. He said staff has provided nearly 6,500 meals to students in the county who are not getting meals at school right now.

Oates said some teachers have been voluntarily meeting to come up with lesson plans and instruction moving forward. Oates said 3,481 devices have been checked out for students who do not have their own devices at home. Oates has been in constant communication with other school districts.

Oates said his biggest concern is high school seniors and graduation. He said he is looking into options to get them the credit they need to graduate.

The school board members also mentioned they want to get all of the teachers working remotely and limit the amount of people in the school buildings. They also said the form for teachers to log their work at home needs to be more simple.

Click here to watch the meeting.