NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (News Release) — At Wednesday night’s Special Meeting of the New Hanover County Board of Education, Board members voted to transition students in grades pre-K through 5 to Plan A on Monday, March 8, 2021.
NHCS is currently operating under Plan B AA/BB schedule for all students. Students in grades 6-12 will continue to operate under Plan B AA/BB schedule. Elementary school students will be able to attend school in-person Monday through Friday.
All students will continue to have the option to choose full-time remote learning.
Parents, students, and educators both for and against Plan A held up signs during the meeting as the board debated the benefits and risks. According to school administrators, just 11 total positive COVID-19 cases are confirmed to be caused by exposure within schools.
Vice-chair of the board Nelson Beaulieu has been a supporter of sending kids back to school.
“I think it’s really impossible to quantify the toll that this has taken on our children, the emotional toll, the social toll, and the academic toll,” Beaulieu said. “After 357 days out of school I just felt it was time.”
The board ultimately voted five to two in favor of Plan A, with the dissenting votes cast by Judy Justice and Stephanie Walker.
Justice says she feels the current plan b model is keeping kids and teachers safe.
“Two days a week, it does fulfill social and emotional needs,” she said.
Justice has concerns that six feet of social distancing is not possible inside elementary schools.
“You can go into classrooms, you can see the numbers that’s on the roster, and you can tell that in some rooms they’ll be lucky if they’re a foot apart.”
Beaulieu contested this:
“I know there’s different guidance between six feet, three feet,” he said. “We’re going to maximize social distancing to the extent possible.”
The entire board agrees that Governor Roy Cooper prioritizing teachers for the vaccine is an important step in reopening.
“The fact that we’re not opening up to A until March 8th gives us a couple weeks to have quite a few of them vaccinated hopefully,” Justice said.
“I want them to know that they are entitled to that vaccine,” Beaulieu said.
Families of elementary students will be contacted by their school to verify the attendance option they are choosing for their student under Plan A.
NHCS families should verify PowerSchool contact information is current to receive Connect 5 phone, email, and text notifications from their schools and the district.
Amanda White, president of the New Hanover County Association of Educators, released a statement after the vote, saying:
“When New Hanover County elementary schools fully reopen on March 8th, our youngest students will go into buildings without 6-feet of social distancing during a pandemic. This is a gamble with their health. In nearby Brunswick County, that gamble has not gone so smoothly. A number of fully reopened Brunswick County schools have had to close temporarily because of COVID clusters, including Town Creek Elementary back in December which devolved into the state’s worst super spreader campus with 38 COVID infections. Vaccinating our public school employees will be critical before they are sent back into schools without 6-feet of social distancing, but we must still be vigilant to protect our children in these schools from the virus. This will take a conscientious effort from all of us.”