Parents, teachers and school administrators were surprised Thursday with Governor Cooper’s announcement that he is relaxing his mandate on North Carolina schools to allow daily in-person classes for elementary grades K-5 beginning Oct. 5, if local school boards deem it generally safe as the state and nation deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

For Carteret County parents and teachers this is good news but it comes with a major question- what are the county’s numbers of confirmed cases, based on age?

County agencies, particularly the Health Department, stressing Federal HIPAA (Health Insurance Privacy and Accountability Act), have been very stingy about information that will help the public make educated decisions. Now that the governor is citing data that will accommodate a return of in-class participation for elementary students, it is time for that information at the local level to be provided to the public and definitely to parents of elementary school children.

Restrictions for all middle and high school students allowing for either hybrid participation where students are separated into two groups, each allowed two days of in-person classroom participation followed by three days of remote learning, or, total virtual classroom participation via internet connection, still remain in force.

Cooper’s announcement is predicated on “data” provided by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) that indicates low COVID-19 cases among the state’s younger population and success in reducing the number of active cases. “We’re able to open the option because most North Carolinians have doubled down on our safety and prevention measures and stabilized our numbers. The science of lower viral spread among younger children also backs up this decision,” Cooper told a News & Observer reporter.

Cooper said nothing about pressure from parents, members of the state’s Republican legislative caucus and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who is opposing Cooper for the upcoming gubernatorial election, imploring him to lift his mandate on all school districts prohibiting full in-class participation at all grade levels. But he has done so for public elementary schools for the time being.

We think this is good news for the county’s elementary students but unfortunately the public and particularly parents do not have a full grasp of the conditions at the county’s 20 public school facilities and as a result should maintain concern.

Carteret County schools post a daily report noting how many individuals are diagnosed with confirmed cases of COVID-19. The problem is the description - “individual.” Does that mean a teacher, administrator, school staff or student? That delineation is important for parents if they are going to feel comfortable sending their children back to school.

If the numbers represent a majority of, or only adults, then the anecdotal numbers from the DHHS can be trusted. However, if these numbers also include children then parents need to know.

We appreciate the school system’s intent to protect confidentiality and to avoid panic. But there is a point of trust about information that does deserve public disclosure when it becomes an issue of the health and safety of others, particularly children.

Does the school administration trust the ability of their constituents, parents and students, to make wise decisions based on valid data? If not, then why should the public and in this case, elementary school parents, trust the source of the information when it is not fully disclosed?

The issue here is not identifying the individuals, although that is not a bad thing since it would allow parents and the community to provide assistance should it be necessary. But it does justify at the very least identifying the group and age impacted.

It is paradoxical that the very organization focused on education and facts, our schools, hesitates to provide the facts and data that the public needs in order to make educated decisions.

It is time for parents and the public to demand the facts, information and data from our publicly supported agencies in order to make “data driven” decisions about their children’s education and their community.

(17) comments

David Collins

Need to back off of reporting the daily cumulative total of virus cases . While some relish these ever increasing numbers it just leads to fear mongering . More informative would be how many would have succumbed to the virus ALONE .

With the revelation of the up to 7000 incorrectly diagnosed cases in N.C. , computer error was blamed but the computer took the fifth and refused comment , most all numbers are suspect but what the heck do I know .

Anyhoo , enough is enough and I for one have had a heaping belly full . There are other things in life to deal with . This will burn out and pass , always does .

dc

Parents absolutely need all the information they can possibly get to make education decisions. Until common sense & discipline can return to public education some concerned parents need the option to take their "education dollars" & do what they think best. Of course, there are parents who aren't capable of making such decisions so what then? Guess that's why we have public education.

David Collins

Sadly , one can not “carve out” your share of the education dollars confiscated yearly and then on trendy , non essential Antics perpetuated by our school boards in the name of education . If it was possible there would be no school overcrowding .

mpjeep

Doesn't matter what the numbers are.....get back in school.

Sleepwalker

The numbers are put out by some sort of “agency”...government type. Anyone who’s been around a while knows that if the government (local state fed) gets anything right it was probably an accident. Numbers are not to be trusted.

mpjeep

North Carolina is already the homeschooling capital of the United States.

According to data compiled by the organization EdChoice.org, about 7.6% of elementary and secondary students in North Carolina were educated at home during the 2019-20 school year, almost always by a parent.

No other state comes close. The next-highest rate of homeschooling was Arkansas’s 3.6%.

mpjeep

Don't look for the government to help.

In the middle of a health crisis, Thom Tillis' staff member is telling folks, without health insurance, you are on your own.

David Collins

Well , the staffer is correct . You are on your own . I am lumping together private Ins. , Medicaid and Care as insurance . Not accounting for who pays the premiums . Someone , somewhere always has to pay the premiums whether they like it , know it or not . Is there another way ?

Can not wrap my head around why what that staffer supposedly said is wrong or bad . He told the truth . Imagine that , he told the truth . Appears that some can not stand hearing the truth . Sort of a “ from out of the mouths of babes “ moment where the Emperor is revealed to have no clothes on .

mpjeep

Yes kids say the darnedest things and part of what makes the stuff that comes out of the mouths of babes funny is their limited access to facts. 

mpjeep

What the staffer did so badly was showing NO compassion for a woman desperately asking if there was any help that could be provided to her and her husband while she battled cancer and her husband was furloughed from his job due to Covid-19.

This is an elected official’s staffer. Don’t you think he could have shown a little concern and understanding of her situation, rather than being insensitive and rude?

Instead he compared buying a shirt to buying health insurance.

Has nothing to do with telling the truth, but showing some concern for people of our state that he represents.

Here is an exact quote from Thom Tillis in an email that he sent me: “Let me start by saying this: I expect any one who interacts with my office to be treated with respect and dignity. The recent actions of a staff assistant in my Washington office was completely inappropriate and violates the code of conduct I have for my staff. I take full responsibility, and immediate disciplinary action was taken”.

So, if nothing the staffer did was wrong, then why did Mr Tillis reprimand this staffer?

Anyone that doesn’t understand that has no compassion for other human beings, much less have some small measure of basic human empathy.

David Collins

He told the truth about insurance . He is a staffer , a yes guy . What could he possibly have done about this personal matter other than pass it on ? What could Tillis have done ? Suspect this encounter was filled with angst , some panic driven emotion and the overwhelming desire for immediate gratification . Sadly , things seldom work well that way and lead to self induced disappointment . Mr Tillis claimed that disciplinary action was taken . Any mention of what type ? Other than a come to Jesus moment perhaps a crash course in sensitivity maybe ? Who knows . No need to trash the candidate due to actions of another . Was not present but were you actually there ? Kind of important . There are more than a few folks well paid to disparage opposing candidates with half truths in this election cycle . Nothing is off limits . Just pay close attention to the adverts .

mpjeep

No, Mr. Collins, you know I wasn’t there during the recorded conversation. I’m sorry you are not a more sympathetic person. And no mention of type of discipline. Probably a slap on the wrist.

I’m not a politician nor do I work for one and by no means do I have customer service experience, but I might have said something along the following lines.

Mrs. Veals, I’m so sorry to hear about your health condition and your husband’s job loss.

Your husband should be able to receive state and federal unemployment and possibly get Cobra insurance. I know it may be expensive, but if needed, it would certainly be worth the price.

Mr. Tillis, and other senators, are working on a healthcare initiative that I think you will like.

Unless you are at or below the poverty income level, you still have to pay some for the ACA. You should contact a local BCBS representative or the Insurance Marketplace to see if you qualify for a subsidy for the Affordable Care Act.

You should also contact the American Cancer Society. They may have information on affordable health care options

Mr. Tillis has introduced the Protect Act, which ensures that all patients, regardless of pre-existing conditions, have access to health insurance coverage, and cannot be charged more because of a pre-existing condition; He is also a co-sponsor of the Continuous Health Coverage for Workers Act, which would provide subsidies for COBRA health plans, making it more affordable for individuals who lost their job.

You should also reach out to the NC Department of Health and Human Services to see if they can help with your situation.

Again, I’m sorry to hear of your situation and hope you’re able to find an affordable solution. As always, feel free to contact our office, either by phone or email, at any future time.

I know this is not the answer you wanted and I’m sorry I couldn’t offer you a definitive answer, but if you will write-in Bernie Sanders name when voting for president, I’m sure you will be happy with his healthcare plans.

[smile]

mpjeep

Let me see if I can better explain my opinion for obstinacy and hardened hearts.

1 The staff member did tell the truth. I just thought he could have done it in a kinder, gentler way.

2 Rather than a “ come to Jesus meeting”, Mr. Tillis should have terminated this employee.

3. Rather than have another staff member reach out to Mrs. Veals and news outlets to make an apology, I thought Mr. Tillis should have put on his big boy panties and made the apology himself.

Come on man…….

Just as an FYI... due to my health conditions, I requested an absentee ballot, filled it out and dropped it off last week. Voted straight republican ticket, including Senator Tillis. Shh….don’t tell anyone.

David Collins

Oh , come on . We are on the same side here . I was just postulating on what may have happened just like you . Perhaps the staffer did not know all of what you said or was just being a jerk . Realize that to a degree we are judged by those we employ but has not the president been a victim of the same thing ? People under him that have turned out to be dirty rats in disguise ? Second guessers that under cut for fame and fortune while promised to remain unnamed . “ well placed unnamed sources “ we hear that all the time . Yes it looks bad , sounds bad but in politics one never really knows . Time to move on and do what we think is best .

Now , should the little horrors return to school completely or in stages and what to do with the teachers that refuse to return to the classroom ? Now that is important with far lasting consequences , in my opinion .

mpjeep

Okay, truce, teammate. In person schooling needs to happen. Teachers that refuse to return should be terminated. But, teachers are going to complain no matter what. Not all of them but many.

dc

Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Virus Coverup with plenty of help from WHO is a worldwide set back with unimaginable consequences especially for even basic education of our young. If the CCP had been upfront the world would probably have been forewarned that the elderly were most vulnerable & that it proved to be much less devastating to young folks. Then the world could have acted accordingly unless you were in NY where infected elderly were put into & sent back to nursing homes.

dc

"There's a game-changer out there that should end the Wuhan virus paranoia". By Andrea Widburg. Maybe the president will be discussing it at the debate tonight.

Welcome to the discussion.

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