Petition created to address safety of school employees in Gaston County

GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — Some Gaston County teachers are worried about returning to the classroom and want to move to a remote-learning plan.

A survey showed 80% of teachers don’t feel safe with in-person learning for part of the week.

School starts Monday for most of the 31,000 students, who will spend two days a week on campus.

A petition was launched Tuesday, and it was shared with employees.

It was created because teachers say the COVID-19 positive rate in Gaston County is still too high, and teachers are asked to do too much.

“I don’t think that our school board members are hearing us,” said Pam Miller, president of the Gaston County chapter of the North Carolina Association of Educators.

The petition said Gaston County’s COVID-19′s positive test rate is double the rate the CDC recommends for reopening schools.

Gaston County still needs 52 certified teachers, 34 transportation workers and 23 custodians, according to the survey.

She is worried about teachers who will have to fill in the gaps and put themselves at a higher risk of catching and spreading a potentially deadly disease.

"No one should have to sacrifice their very life to teach a child and no child should sacrifice their very life to come to school," Miller said.

School officials plan to have students’ temperatures checked daily, keep them separated and enforce wearing masks.

Miller said under the circumstances that's not enough for many school employees.

"They are upset, and they are fired up," Miller said.

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Students were back on campus at some schools Wednesday for orientation.

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"I am scared to go back to school," student Sheila Weaver said.

She is a fifth grader at Brookside Elementary School where they will have in-person learning for students twice a week.

Sheila lives with her grandmother and worries that she may get infected.

School officials haven’t responded to Channel 9′s questions about their current job vacancies or possibly changing their plan.

School board members refused to consider the matter when they had a chance to vote on it last week.

The Association of Educators hopes the petition will make school officials reconsider.