On September 17th, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced that effective October 5th, public schools in the state could go to Plan A--daily face-to-face learning--for students in grades K-5.
Area school boards then met to decide whether or not to proceed with that plan. Lincoln Charter School, which began the year operating under Plan C--all remote learning--decided to switch to Plan A for grades K-5 effective October 19th. The Lincoln Charter Schoool Board made that decision September 21st. They also decided to move to Plan B (a mixture of in-person and remote learning) for grades 7-8 starting October 19th and for grades 9-12 starting October 26th.
The Gaston County School Board decided they weren't ready to make the change. Supt. Dr. Jeffrey Booker told the Board the schools would need more time to prepare and they should have more discussions with teachers and parents before making that decision.
At its meeting the last Monday in September, the Catawba County School Board decided to make the switch effective October 20th for grades 2-3 and November 30th for grades 4-5. Supt. Dr. Matt Stover added, "Fridays will continue to be remote learning for all students K-12 regardless if we are in Plan B or Plan A. We will continue offering a 100% remote option through Online Catawba. We will consider requests to switch to/from 100% remote learning IF there are available slots and IF there is staffing availability."
The Lincoln County Board of Education held a special meeting Thursday morning September 24th and decided to switch from Plan B to Plan A for grades K-5 beginning this Tuesday October 13th. This week, elementary students will go to school four days. Beginning next Monday October 19th, elementary students and staff will transition to a full Plan ‘A’, five days per week of face-to-face instruction. Students and families currently on Plan ‘C’ (all remote learning) will be required to have a medically approved recommendation to continue with remote learning beyond October 19th. The decision came on a 4-2 vote, with board members Cathy Davis, Heather Rhyne, Mark Mullen and Todd Wulfhorst voting 'yes' and Kirk Herbertson and Joan Avery voting 'no.' Tony Jenkins was not present at the meeting.
The decision not to continue remote learning except for those with a medical excuse has drawn criticism from some parents, teachers and other school staffers. School Board chair Cathy Davis told us that the reason Lincoln County can't do that is that we didn't have a totally online program established like Catawba County and Gaston County do. Trying to do both in-person learning and remote wouldn't be possible because of personnel and budget restraints.
One of those who has spoken out about the decision by the School Board sent us several emails:
"I am messaging you concerning the opening of elementary schools in our county to Plan A, starting this coming Tuesday. Myself and many, many colleagues have emailed the BOE more than once over the past week with our concerns and the reality of what is going on in our schools at this time. We have requested an emergency board meeting for earlier than the 13th, so that a more informed decision can be made in returning to Plan A. Our emails have not been answered.
"I feel that the residents of Lincoln County are being misled about the reality of what teachers, TA’s, principals, AP’s, custodians, Child Nutrition and other school staff are facing, on a daily basis, when there is a positive COVID case at their school.
"I am giving you a copy of my emails that I sent to the board and I can give you the ones from my colleagues as well. I’m asking that if you report on this, which I sincerely hope you do, that you please do not use our names at this time. I’m unsure if having our names attached will put our jobs in jeopardy, but we all absolutely LOVE what we do and would rather just remain anonymous until I can get clarification on this. I would ask that none of these emails be published. I’m sharing them with you so that you will have the information at hand, if you decide to pursue these claims and concerns further."
The copies of letters to the School Board we received were from teachers and teachers' assistants. One of them said in part, "at our school, we have 11 employees out due to quarantining for COVID. We have teachers (2), teacher assistants (5), custodian (1), cafeteria (1) and office staff (2) and one kindergarten class that are all quarantining due to being exposed. We also have two other students that have tested positive in our school."
The School Board had committee meetings scheduled for last Tuesday (Oct. 7th) but they were cancelled because of technical problems with the equipment used to zoom the meetings. The committee meetings were rescheduled to begin at 5:30 this Tuesday afternoon at the Schools office on Jeb Seagle Drive. The regular monthly meeting of the board will follow. The public can request time to appear before the board, but advance notice is required, although the board can allow people to appear without advance notice if they choose.
Occasionally, we still get calls from people asking "where can I get a copy of your paper?" The fact is--you can't! We don't publish a print newspaper. We do report the local news for Lincoln, Catawba, Gaston & Cleveland counties online every day of the year.
By not printing a paper, we can save on the cost of newsprint, the paper on which newspapers are printed. That savings allows us to provide the news FREE! We even post links to all our articles on Facebook & Twitter, and those who have signed up for our FREE email service receive a daily email with links to all the articles we've posted since the previous day.