Carteret County Board of Education members have made a decision “finally” on how county schools will operate under Governor Cooper’s mandates. We note editorially that this was “finally” done, not because of any delay on the county board’s part but rather on the delayed determination by the governor which has left schools across the state with only a short window to create plans for restarting the traditional school year.
None of the solutions will be solved quickly or cheaply. And most definitely any of the decisions will be difficult for most if not all participants - teachers, students and parents.
But the board did what it was supposed to do - make a decision so that county schools, their staff and students could get on with the task at hand. In conclusion the board was faced with a lose-lose option.
The board and the schools were ill served by the intransigence of the former board chairman, Travis Day, who complained throughout the five and half hour meeting Wednesday about the options, arguing that the students needed to be in the classroom.
The board voted 4-2 to utilize a hybrid school schedule, breaking the students into two cohort groups, A and B. One group will be in the classroom Monday and Tuesday, the other group attending Thursday and Friday, allowing the schools to clean the classrooms on the days between class attendance. During the three days not in the classroom, the students will attend classes remotely.
All the board members and the school staff agreed with Mr. Day at various times during the meeting but they continued to hear the presentations and to work with the realities of the moment. There is no question students, parents and teachers suffer with any of the three scenarios.
Board Chairman John McLean agreed with Mr. Day’s concern but also pointed out that current circumstances - fear of the spread of the virus and governmental dictates - gave the board few options. “Everyone agrees that the ultimate goal is to get students back in the classroom five days a week but we can’t realistically do that right now,” he stated during the meeting.
Mr. Day’s continued harping did nothing to move the program along. It lengthened the meeting unnecessarily and in the process gave the impression that he had little concern for the physical health of the teachers, staff and children.
The board could have better utilized its time in the meeting by discussing alternative solutions by utilizing existing services. One example is establishing means for students or parents accessing tutorial services, since more than half of the classes will be via remote access that restricts one-on-one communications with teachers. Another concern that needs immediate attention is how students who lack adequate facilities will conduct their classroom activities.
There are so many unanswered questions that should have been asked but were not, and as a result the community writ large remains in the dark.
Mr. Day’s continued complaints did result in the board agreeing to revisit the plans two weeks after school starts but that will be of little value for any long range planning. It will take more than two weeks, more likely two months, to fully understand the impact of this schedule.
As the meme goes, “It is what it is,” which means the current situation is a fact and has to be accepted as such. For the school board to ignore the realities of the moment would be a travesty and a loss of an opportunity to make long range plans that will at least ameliorate the problems and may coincidentally create new opportunities.
Education in our schools will change radically for the short term and possibly longer. It won’t be easy or comfortable but at least there is a semblance of a plan that will, by necessity, be changing as conditions dictate.
Now is not the time to say “no” but rather a time to be imaginative and innovative when it comes to teaching our children.