CABARRUS COUNTY, N.C. — Students will be back in the classroom next week in Cabarrus County, a move school board members said they have been getting a lot of blowback for enacting.
Starting Jan. 19, the district is bringing back students for two days a week, with virtual learning the other three days.
“We’ve got to get these kids back in school,” Chair Holly Grimsley said. “We have got to start somewhere.”
The move to switch to Plan B comes as COVID-19 numbers and spread in our community are at all-time highs.
Cabarrus School Board members said they have been flooded with messages from the public about how they should proceed.
“I am a former high school football coach. I was on a staff one time that we won two games in four years,” school board member Tim Furr said. “I can take criticism. That is not a big deal.”
But according to Furr, people are apparently taking it a step further and are sending messages to the homes of elected officials.
“It is frustrating that we get things sent to our house, which is inappropriate,” he said. “That is kind of crossing the line.”
Other school board members said they are getting hurtful emails.
“What I will not and do not tolerate are some of the nasty, hateful emails that I have received,” school board member Laura Blackwell said.
Despite all of that, Cabarrus County is proceeding as planned with Plan B.
During Thursday evening’s meeting, some leaders said they were worried a large portion of teachers will call in next week pretending to be sick in order to force a closure.
“I sincerely hope it never gets to that,” attorney Brian Shaw said. “Our teachers, I think, certainly by and large to the greatest extent are professionals.”
Channel 9 has heard from several teachers who said they feel that their voices and concerns have not been heard.
Rebecca Ringlein said she loves being a second-grade teacher.
“We have asked for help, and we’ve asked for intervention over and over again, and we’re getting ignored,” Ringlein told Channel 9 Friday.
She is now she’s frustrated and worried about Thursday night’s vote.
“It was a big deal to get to this point of being pregnant, and I’d hate to think of what could happen to me or to my babies,” Ringlein said.
Teachers have been circulating a petition asking to stay in plan C, which is for students to go to fully remote learning.
There have been 13,000 COVID-19 cases with an 18% positivity rate in Cabarrus County.
“That is too high of a number for it to be safe for people to return to in-person learning,” teacher Rachel Harkey said.
Harkey said she and other teachers feel that the board didn’t listen to their fears before the vote to bring students back into the classrooms.
She said the decision was political.
“We are professionals, and we do what we do, because we care about the families and the children that we serve,” Harkey said. “And a political agenda being forwarded against us is the wrong thing to do.”
Shaw said teachers can be punished for purposely calling out if they are not sick. However, he didn’t go into detail on what the punishment would be or how the district would verify if they are not actually ill.
“The expectation is that our employees will be at work on Tuesday, and I trust our employees will be there for our students,” Superintendent Dr. Chris Lowder said.
Some school board members said they are prepared to roll up their sleeves and pitch in to help during the transition back to in-person learning.
“I am sending my daughter on the 19th, and I am willing to volunteer in a classroom or volunteer in a line somewhere,” school board member Keisha Sandidge said. “Just let me know.”
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