Union County teachers protest school district’s reopening plans

Union County teachers protest school district's reopening plans

UNION COUNTY, N.C. — Union County teachers held a “motor march” on Monday outside the Union County Public Schools office. They are pushing the school board to start the year remotely.

Under the current plan, Union County will start the school year in two weeks with a mix of in-person and remote learning. Students will rotate going to campus once a week and learn remotely the rest of the time.

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They are trying to keep school buildings at 25% to 30% capacity, but teachers asked the district to hold off on that and start all online.

“We are trying to sway the board to go to remote learning to start off, we just want to see the numbers (of COVID cases) come down,” Union County teacher Lisa O’Connor said.

O’Connor, a high school math teacher and others made their horns heard.

They hope the school board will listen to their concerns about returning to the classroom.

“We’re all extremely anxious to get back in the classroom with our kids. There’s no better way to teach and learn than that and we know that but we want it to be safe for the students our families and our staff,” O’Connor said.

Several other large districts around the state have opted to start the year all online and teachers hope Union County will follow suit. Parents joined the protest, saying they're not ready to send their kids into the classroom yet either.

“It’s unsafe for them to be here at school it’s unsafe for our kids to be at school,” parent John Gallagher said.

In May, the school board voted to defy Governor Cooper's orders and hold in person graduation ceremonies after parents drove by and protested outside of the superintendent's home.

Now these teachers and parents are hoping their message is heard. The school board is set to meet on Tuesday.

Board Chair Melissa Merrell sent Channel 9 the following response:

“We respect the opinions of our teachers and all UCPS employees and understand that this is a challenging time. We have received feedback from teachers who are comfortable with the decisions that have been made and others who would like an alternative model.

UCPS is one of nine school districts in our region that will open under a Plan B model. More than half of UCPS employees completed a survey, with 86% of school-based staff indicating that they plan to return to work.

The Board is extremely proud of the choices being offered in UCPS with Plan B (hybrid face-to-face and remote learning) and Plan D (Virtual Academy), and we ask that our teachers who desire another option to please work with their principal and human resources.”

In South Carolina, teachers protested against in-person learning this week. They drove past the governor’s mansion and the statehouse in Columbia.

They want school to be all virtual until it’s safe to reopen. Gov. Henry McMaster wants in-person learning daily.

On Thursday, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools switched to an all-virtual plan. District leaders said the rate of positive tests is too high right now to send kids back to school.

The district is also short dozens of employees in vital positions like bus drivers, nurses and custodians.

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