10/14/2020 8:08:00 AM School Board Hears Complaints
Stacy Pattison (left inserted photo) and Tracy Baker (right) spoke during the Public Comments portion of the meeting. Tricia McCabe also spoke but only audio, no video.
Wayne Howard Staff Writer
Contrary to what you may have read in a Facebook post, the Lincoln County Board of Education's Tuesday evening (Oct. 13th) meeting was NOT closed to the public. It is true that nobody except the School Board, their attorney, administrators and others who work in the schools' office and one reporter were there in person, but the meeting--and the committee meetings that preceded it--were available online. Three parents of students in Lincoln County Schools also participated in the meeting, speaking during the Public Comments portion.
The committee meetings had been scheduled for the previous Tuesday (Oct. 6th) but had to be postponed because of technical difficulties with the zoom equipment. Three people did show up that Tuesday, but the meetings were postponed until Oct. 13th when they preceded the regular monthly board meeting.
A sign on the door to the offices said that the meetings (committee and regular) could be viewed online and some may have understood that to be the only way they could be seen, but board chair Cathy Davis told us Tuesday morning that they would check temperatures and ask questions to make sure those attending didn't have COVID-19 and that there would be seating for a limited number of people to attend. "We have to maintain social distancing," she said, "but unless there's more than we can handle, the public is certainly welcome to attend." Nobody (other than those mentioned) showed up to have their temp checked and attend the meeting.
Most of the meeting was routine matters. Three mothers of children who are students in Lincoln County Schools spoke during the Public Comments portion of the meeting, expressing concerns about the decision of the board to implement Plan A--face-to-face instruction five days per week--for grades K-5. Stacy Pattison asked the board to add plexiglass shields to student desks, ban face coverings that don't meet CDC guidelines, and take other steps to insure safety. Tracy Blake said she would like the board to revisit its decision. Tricia McCabe noted that the separation of three feet, which is part of the current policy, is not in line with the six feet social distancing suggested by the CDC.
Board member Joan Avery, who along with Kirk Herbertson, voted 'no' on the move to Plan A at the special called meeting September 24th, said she had received over a hundred calls from parents who disagreed with the decision. "We are in a second wave," she said, quoting figures about the increasing numbers of cases in Lincoln County. Avery said Gaston & Cleveland county schools had sent out surveys about possibly going into Plan A and that she believed Lincoln County should do the same. Avery attended the meeting via Zoom; she is currently isolating after having been exposed to the virus.
While there have been some cases of COVID-19 reported in Lincoln County Schools, except for postponing the opening of Iron Station Elementary in August, there have been no closures. No official number is available, but unofficial reports indicate that the number of cases is now at least 34. That's still far less than the 100-plus cases in Gaston County Schools. Gaston County closed its Webb Street School temporarily because of one cluster of cases. Cleveland County closed Crest High School until this Thursday because of multiple cases there. While some students and staff have been quarantined either because of having been infected or having been exposed to the virus, Lincoln County Schools doesn't appear on the NCDHHS's list of clusters in child care and school settings (released every Tuesday and Friday).
With Election Day happening on Nov. 3rd, the board decided to move its committee meetings next month to Nov. 10th when they will again precede the regular monthly board meeting.
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Posted: Wednesday, October 14, 2020
Article comment by:
To clarify, this is what I asked the board to do:
1) Ban exhalation valves or vents in masks. They do not prevent COVID-19 transmission, and the CDC recommends against them.
2) Ban gaiters and all other single-layer face coverings. The CDC recommends against these as well.
3) Enforce the requirement that face coverings fully cover the nose and mouth at all times.
4) Invest in desk shields for all elementary students. Children are eating lunch in their classrooms, sitting 3 feet apart, with no masks on. A Huntersville company, Poly-Tech Industrial, has a low-cost option that many school districts are using.
5) Improve the poor ventilation in classrooms to achieve an appropriate air exchange rate. Follow EPA recommendations to upgrade HVAC systems or put free-standing HEPA air purifiers in classrooms.