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Joint New Hanover county and school board meeting cancelled as officials differ over K-5 reopening

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Shortly after it was announced, a joint meeting between county commissioners and school board members has been postponed indefinitely. The decision was made just hours after the school board made an abrupt about-face on the issue of school reopening.

 

The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners has shown a vested interested in school reopening since December, when Chair Julia Olson-Boseman pushed the school district to reopen elementary schools while also offering nearly $3 million in bonuses for school staff.

 

The school board initially obliged, planning a mid-January return to full time in-class instruction for K-5 classes.

But during this Wednesday’s school board meeting, members voted 6-1 to postpone that, returning students to virtual classes and apparently catching Superintendent Dr. Charles Foust off guard.

“No surprises -- that’s all I ask, that the board not surprise me.”

Immediately following the vote, Olson-Boseman took to social media to decry the decision and praise school board vice-chair Nelson Beaulieu, the lone dissenting vote.

Shortly afterwards, during the county’s agenda meeting, Olson-Boseman announced the joint meeting with school leaders would have to be postponed. She noted that she had originally met on Tuesday, prior to the school board meeting, with county vice-chair Deb Hays, school board chair Stefanie Adams, and Beaulieu:

“Madam Vice-Chair [Deb Hays] and I had met with the chair of the school board [Stefanie Adams] and the vice-chair [Nelson Beaulieu] about a possible meeting … given their inability to deal with Covid effectively, they seem to have their hands full, so I’m gonna ask that that meeting be postponed until the numbers look right, Madam Clerk. Would you let us know when the numbers look right to meet again. And I’m sure the school board will know what that means because they seem to know about numbers.”

 

County manager Chris Coudriet confirmed that he also attended the Tuesday meeting. The county has confirmed that there was no official agenda either for this smaller original meeting or the public, joint meeting scheduled for next week.

For WHQR, I’m Ben Schachtman.