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While NHCS families are grateful for return to school options, some say teachers are overburdened

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NHC School Board Member Stephanie Walker says she wished she had more discuss middle and high school reopening plans.

  New Hanover County Schools secondary teachers are preparing for more students in the classroom. That’s because the district is allowing families to choose between three options: full-time, part-time, and remote. While these appease parents, some in the community are not entirely supportive.   

"There's definitely a little bit of fear that if Governor Cooper allows it, that we might fully reopen our 6 through 12 schools. And I think with everything that's happened in the past year, both for us and for the kids, we just really want things to stay consistent for the end of the school year, the kids have figured out all the online learning platforms. We've kind of have gotten into our routines.”

Kayleigh Pare’s fear came true. She’s a sixth-grade teacher at the International School at Gregory. She spoke with WHQR right before the Governor and the legislature came to an agreement last week that they’d let school districts decide whether to open middle and high schools full-time. 

And at Tuesday’s school board meeting, some members were caught off guard about maintaining the part-time in-person option. Board Member Stephanie Walker:

“I don’t believe most of us who were members knew that all three options were on the table. And that’s why we looked confused.”

She says it’s been hard to get information from school administration. And she says that it’s part of a trend that she’s seen since being sworn in last December:

 

“Communication has been very difficult, in my opinion, across the board, when it comes to these types of things. We’re expected to make decisions, such crucial decisions, but we have to have the information. It can’t keep working this way.”

Like Walker, Board Members Hugh McManus and Judy Justice are supportive of giving parents options, but they have one specific concern:

“It’s the teachers. It’s the teachers. This is hard.”

But Deputy Superintendent LaChawn Smith says the decision to offer all three options wouldn’t a big change for them:

“In essence, we’re not creating a new option, we’re just extending the 2-day option to a 5-day option.”

But, according to Pare, this could be contributing to teachers wanting to leave the profession:

 

“But come August or September, if we’re still being asked to teach online and in-person at the same time and to record all of our lessons and to manage kids that are in the Virtual Academy, if that becomes kind of the norm for teachers, then I think we would see a lot of teachers potentially leaving or considering other careers.”

Walker agrees,

 

“I don’t think it’s at a point where teachers are actually getting listened to. And we’ve had a lot of retirements and resignations over the past few months. I believe if you don’t bring them into the conversation, at least ask them what they feel is right, you’re going to lose more teachers.”

While teachers were not directly consulted or polled about their desire to have all students return, Smith says she talked with principals about this new scheduling plan:

“I’ve not received any emails, any phone calls, any concerns expressed to me about this not being able to work in their building.”

Stephanie Walker: 

“I know maybe Dr. Smith hasn’t seen any, heard any complaints, and you probably wouldn’t, but I know we have.”

Instead of an interview, New Hanover County Schools chose to send a statement that read in part,

 

“School administrators have worked diligently with their teachers and support staff to ensure each employee has access to the information and resources they need to provide a safe, quality education for all students.”

NHCS Full Statement: “School administrators have worked diligently with their teachers and support staff to ensure each employee has access to the information and resources they need to provide a safe, quality education for all students. NHCS surveyed parents about a return to Plan A and received a significant response. Our parents made clear to us that they want options, which is why the Board of Education approved the school district’s plan to move forward with Plan A for grades 6-12 which provide families with additional options. Students can return to daily in-person classes, stay fully remote or continue with the Plan B, AA/BB schedule. NHCS has taken the necessary steps for the health of teachers, staff members, and students during the pandemic. The district is excited to welcome back our students for full-time in-person learning beginning April 12, 2021. And NHCS will continue to keep school staff and parents informed of plans regarding in-person and remote instruction.”