New Hanover County teachers want schools to reopen… safely

NEW HANOVER COUNTY (WWAY) — New Hanover County Schools are preparing to make the jump to Plan A of their COVID-19 plan, and educators want a seat at the table.

New Hanover County Association of Educators want to reopen schools… but only when it’s safe to do so. According to Elementary School Teacher Elizabeth Budd, that’s their overarching message.

“The New Hanover County Association of Educators offers a resolution,” announced Budd in Thursday’s press conference. “Let’s reopen our elementary schools…. as soon as we can safely.”

The NHCAE started the news conference asking school board members to create a safe space for teachers and students. NC Association of Educators President Tamika Walker Kelly said the only way to do that is to mandate six feet of social distancing.

“If school boards want to open our schools to full time in person instruction, then we must do so safely,” said Kelly. “Safely means six feet of social distancing. Period.”

In their meeting earlier this month, school board and staff members admitted six feet of social distancing would be almost impossible. Even three feet of distancing is out of reach for some classrooms. But Amanda White, the NHCAE President countered if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s how to adapt.

According to White, “As creative as we have been with how we give instruction this year, we feel the district and the board should also be as creative as we have.”

They’re also urging the Board to form an advisory council, where educators can be part of the decision-making process. Another request–they want Superintendent Charles Foust to disclose contact tracing information of staff and students, detailing where and when Coronavirus is contracted within the school.

“With transparency comes accountability,” said Allison Lashford, and Ashley High School special ed. teacher. “And with accountability comes improvements to make sure we are doing the best we can to make sure our schools are safe during a pandemic.”

When asked for a comment, New Hanover County Schools replied, “The district is continuing to plan for the spring semester with the health and safety of students and staff as the top priority.”

The New Hanover County School Board will meet January fifth to discuss final reopening plans. Until then, NHC elementary schools are expected to start Plan A January 19.

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