The Cumberland County School Board has a communication problem. It’s not about their methods. As a parent of public school children, I get a text message, phone call, and email from the school system almost nightly. The problem is their messaging. They never really tell you what’s going on. A perfect example was this week:
On New Years Day, the School Board announced an emergency meeting for Tuesday, the day before school was set to resume on Wednesday. Most of us found out on Facebook. Their plan is to shut down all the schools again. They tell us it’s just for three days. The reason is Covid. I’m guessing that a lot of the staff of Cumberland County Schools, like a lot of other Cumberland County residents, caught omicron in the recent wave.
The recent updates from the school system say that “no decision has been made,” so the parents of students in Cumberland County will get about 24 hours notice as to whether they’ll need child care for their kids this week.
People are understandably upset, but they don’t get to express their frustrations. The Board is not allowing public comment at the meeting.
Prior to the vote, the Board is going to go into a closed session to get advice from their attorney. This meeting shouldn’t be behind closed doors. Instead, it should be live-streamed for every parent to see. Here’s what they’ll be discussing in that room:
New Law Governing Covid School Shutdowns
A few months ago, the N.C. Legislature amended our laws, both restricting and empowering school systems to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. Click “download” to view the entire document:
The Board plans to close schools under the following section:
(b) A public school unit in a county that has received a good cause waiver, as provided in G.S. 115C-84.2(d), for the school year may use up to 15 remote instruction days or 90 remote instruction hours when schools are unable to open due to severe weather conditions, energy shortages, power failures, or other emergency situations and may use that time towards the required instructional days or hours for the school calendar. All other public school units may use up to five remote instruction days or 30 remote instruction hours when schools are unable to open due to severe weather conditions, energy shortages, power failures, or other emergency situations and may use that time towards the required instructional days or hours for the school calendar.
Notice that the word “Covid” is not in the section above.
Now read this section:
PART IIIA. REMOTE INSTRUCTION FOR COVID-19 EMERGENCIES
SECTION 3A. Notwithstanding G.S. 115C-84.3, as enacted by this act, a public school unit shall have the authority to make day-to-day decisions for the 2021-2022 school year concerning whether shifting individual schools or individual classrooms that are providing in-person instruction to temporary remote instruction is necessary due to COVID-19 exposures that result in insufficient school personnel or required student quarantines. A public school unit shall report any shift by a school or classroom from in-person to temporary remote instruction as provided in this section to the Department of Public Instruction within 72 hours of the shift and shall return to in-person instruction as soon as personnel are available or the required quarantines are complete.
Notice the difference? If you have a staff shortage due to Covid, you’re supposed to address it on an individual school or individual classroom basis. You then get the kids back into the closed school or closed classroom as soon as you can. You don’t shut the whole school system down!
It’s really that simple.
Why don’t we try following this brand new law and see if it works?
It’s time we take what we’ve learned and push forward as best we can.
The real emergency in our school system is the damage we continue to do to our children with our one-size-fails-all approach to the pandemic.