New Hanover school board decides against Plan A for elementary schools

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The New Hanover County school board held a special meeting on Monday to discuss whether or not to allow elementary schools to move to full-time in-person learning.

The New Hanover County Public Health Department provided an update on COVID-19, then the board talked about reopening plans.

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The board ultimately decided against Plan A full time in-person instruction, instead going with the hybrid Plan B. Plan B will also be modified to an A-B schedule, having Group A students in schools on Mondays and Tuesdays, and Group B students on Thursdays and Fridays. All students will learn remotely on Wednesdays.

The Plan B implementation will be pushed back from October 6 to October 12.

On Sept. 15, the board voted 6-1 to transition into Plan B learning to begin the second grading period on October 6.

Under the original guidelines for hybrid Plan B learning, students would have been separated in three groups and will attend face-to-face instruction on an alternating three week schedule. Each group would have spent one week in school buildings, and then two weeks remote.

Last Thursday, Gov. Cooper announced that public school districts and charter schools can choose to implement Plan A, full time in-person learning, for elementary schools (grades K-5) starting Oct. 5.

A crowd of parents, teachers, and community members gathered outside Monday’s meeting asking the board to not move forward with Plan A.

“As a teacher, I see the pitfalls in it and I see that we’re not ready for it entirely,” said Murrayville Elementary School second grade teacher Elizabeth Budd. “I wanted to make sure that our collective voice was heard because I’m not the only one that feels this way.”

Vice chair David Wortman was the only member of the board that supported Plan A, voting against the revised Plan B option.

“Obviously I’m for Plan A,” Wortman said. “I’m giving parents the choice, I’m not telling kids to go back to school.”

Chair Stefanie Adams cited a variety of concerns with jumping directly from Plan C to Plan A.

“I cannot imagine putting a teacher in a room with 27-30 students and for them to feel safe,” Adams said.

Superintendent Dr. Charles Foust discussed the process of moving to Plan A as time progresses.

“We’ll have to sit down and have more discussion with our health officials to say ‘what is actually considered safe to go to a Plan A, but the ultimate goal is to get to Plan A,” Foust said.

Board member Judy Justice received a lot of attention at the meeting, both positive and negative. Demonstrators cheered her name as she entered the building for her cautious position on reopening. However, she faced scrutiny from a fellow board member late in the meeting.

Vice chair Wortman referenced a message Justice allegedly sent through social media to a member of the community who was advocating for Plan A. That message refers to a group of Plan A advocates as “white, privileged people who are Trump supporters and anti mask and anti vaccines.”

“To call those parents some of those words that that board member called them is disgusting,” Wortman said.

Justice admitted to sending a message, though she didn’t specify what it said.

“There’s this core group of people, they’ve literally been stalking me and badgering me,” she said. “It was a private message.”

“Miss Justice, I’m going to have to pull you back in from that one,” Chairwoman Adams interrupted. “As an elected official people are going to have opinions about things that we do and we have to be respectful.”

Board members declined to comment at the end of the meeting.

New Hanover County Schools sent the following news release Monday night regarding the Plan B reopening decision:

At the Sept. 21 Special Board meeting, the New Hanover County Board of Education voted to approve the transition to Plan B using an AA/BB model instead of a three-week rotation schedule for students. Beginning on Monday, October 12 students in groups A and B will rotate in-person and remote attendance, with students in Group A attending on Monday and Tuesday and students in Group B attending on Thursday and Friday. Wednesday will be a remote learning day for all students. Group assignments will be communicated at the school level. Families who still want a full remote option will be able to participate in a 100% remote learning option.

The transition to the AA/BB model was approved based on health data and trends provided by the New Hanover County Health Department. The district will continue to work with county health officials and monitor and assess data to plan for the transition to Plan A when conditions permit. To help communicate information and specifics regarding the AA/BB model under Plan B, the district will be hosting a series of Town Hall Meetings during the week of September 28. The district will hold four separate virtual events on:

  • Monday, September 28 – District Staff (see principal/supervisor for more information)

  • Tuesday, September 29 – Pre K and Elementary Schools

  • Wednesday, September 30 – LatinX Families (Partnered with UNCW Latino Alliance)

  • Thursday, October 1 – Middle and High Schools

For additional information on town hall events visit here.