COVID-19 numbers continue to decline in Wayne County.
However, educators remain wary of the Wayne County Board of Education’s decision to move forward with reopening schools for grades K-5 on March 16.
A majority of certified staff and three-quarters of classified staff at 18 impacted schools prefer to stay in Plan B, according to a survey conducted by Ken Derksen, communications and public relations director at Wayne County Public Schools.
Dr. Marcia Manning, assistant superintendent for student services and innovative programs at WCPS, said the schools have taken necessary safety precautions. She added that because of the strict requirements, WCPS schools are probably the safest place in the county.
“Manning was talking about how surgical they have been with quickly isolating and quarantining individuals,” said Tiffany Kilgore, president of Wayne County Association of Educators.
“We have had a lot of people quarantined to the point of schools barely functioning. Problem is, if you open up elementary, then just one positive case will cause an entire class to quarantine. It’s going to cause a huge problem that WCPS just can’t surgical tackle.”
WCPS shut down two schools — Brogden Middle and North Drive Elementary — in the fall due to virus clusters.
Manning said that WCPS officials have advocated for the district’s staff to receive the vaccine. She’s currently compiling names of employees who want the vaccine for the county’s health department and emergency management in preparation for the rollout.
The county’s substitute teacher support has just 25% of subs available to cover classrooms when teachers are absent. The district is working with staff when teleworking can occur and addressing a small number of staff who need medical accommodations.
Kilgore has mixed emotions.
“Our educators and staff have done a fantastic job with adapting and changing educational strategies to meet the needs of all students,” Kilgore said. “As an educator who is educating her own elementary school-aged child at home, I get it. However, are we rushing into this for the betterment of the students or just to push us into a ‘normal’ schedule so our communities can get back to normal?
“Our students are suffering is the reckoning call being hurled at us from all angles, but where are these calls when they lost their TAs (teacher assistants)?”
North Carolina ranks 46th nationally in per pupil spending.
WCPS received notification from the NC Department of Health and Human Services saying that it would receive child care subsidy funding for November and December.
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services notified the district in January that the money had dropped.
Impacted employees should receive the supplement in their February paychecks.