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Parents, locals react to Rowan-Salisbury school reopening plans

By Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Less than a week after Gov. Roy Cooper announced schools would return under a mixed schedule, there are still a number of questions and concerns among parents about what classes will look like in August.

Cooper made the announcement setting that baseline for districts on Tuesday, and Rowan-Salisbury Schools already had an A-and-B-day plan in place. That plan will place half of the students in classes for two days at a time, and Wednesday will be all virtual. The district also has created a new virtual K-8. High school students have the option to enroll virtually as well. The district could move to all virtual learning of its own accord, but it has not done so.

The Post surveyed locals about what they think of the decisions and what questions they have. A frequent question was whether students will be required to wear uniforms. And a Rowan-Salisbury Schools administrator said the issue will be brought up during the Monday Board of Education meeting along with other school operations discussions. The virtual meeting will be at 5 p.m. and can be joined by the public via conferencing application Zoom.

Todd Deutsch is a parent in Rockwell who is married to a teacher. Deutsch said he wants his children back in school after seeing how little they learned while buildings were closed at the end of last school year.

“My wife is a teacher and is working very hard to make the best of this situation, but the education that kids are receiving virtually is near useless,” Deutsch said.

Salisbury parent Erin Rogers said she has kids in elementary, middle and high school.

“They are happy to be be going back at least two days a week,” Rogers said. “My two oldest are involved in sports including football, which we are hoping to have somewhat of a season, even if it is a later one.”

Tammie Foster is a China Grove parent who said the optimal plan would be to have all students in class, but she would rather see the district move to all-virtual than only have students in classes two days a week.

“So many families will struggle with students not being in school if they do not have options for childcare while working,” Foster said.

Cleveland parent Greg Mixson also wanted the district to wait on reopening schools.

“I wish we were holding off opening school until the state is fully open,” Mixson said. “My concerns are the health and safety of kids and staff.”

Rockwell Parent Amanda Irvin said she does not understand the thinking behind sending kids back to school right now, saying students will not wear masks for that long, and teachers will spend the day cleaning and enforcing social distancing.

Granite Quarry parent Carlie Pickler said she thinks getting elementary kids to wear a mask for eight hours is crazy.

“There will be no teaching going on because they’ll constantly be telling the kids to put their mask on or leave it alone,” Pickler said.

During a virtual webinar with teachers on Thursday, RSS Superintendent Lynn Moody said students tended to get used to wearing masks. She based that on the experience of charter schools and others which have held summer programming.

Salisbury parent David Benton said COVID-19 needs to get under control before “even thinking about opening any school other than a virtual one.

“If we can’t even slow the spread while schools are closed, it seems foolish to push for a reopening,” Benton said. “Also, it is unclear how COVID-19 affects children. Though the virus seems to be milder among children than adults, serious illness and death still occur and now long-term effects (such as damage to the lungs) are being seen even in asymptomatic children.

“Now we are expecting students of all ages to wear a mask and practice social distancing while in a classroom for seven hours. This is simply unrealistic. … Right now we have too little information and planning to guarantee their safety. If you want to mix gambling and education, buy a lottery ticket. Don’t bet the lives of children.”

Rockwell parent Ashlie Russell said she is not ready to send her child into physical classrooms.

“I want the option for virtual learning through my child’s current school. His school,” Russell said, “the school I want him to eventually return to when it is actually safe to do so.”

Alisha Walker, a Rockwell parent, said she supports the state’s plan B decision but would have been fine if schools were open five days a week, noting families have been given an online option.

People can join Monday’s school board meeting via rssed.zoom.us/j/92010540497 or dial in by telephone with any of the following numbers:

• 312-626-6799

• 929-205-6099

• 301-715-8592

• 346-248-7799

• 669-900-6833

• 253-215-8782

The webinar ID number is 920-1054-0497. People who wish to speak during public comment must pre-register by 3 p.m. Monday. Pre-register by emailing Sonya.Mulkey@rss.k12.nc.us 

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