GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Is it safe to reopen Guilford County Schools? It’s a contentious conversation parents, teachers and the school board have had for weeks.
On Thursday, we expect board members to decide when and how students and teachers will return to in-person learning, if at all.
The Guilford County Association of Educators says it does not want to put children or teachers in harm’s way by rushing to reopen.
“Unfortunately the truth is no matter how much we want to return, COVID-19 will disrupt that return if we don’t do it right,” said Todd Warren, the president of GCAE.
Six weeks ago the school district opened under Plan C, which is strictly remote learning.
In October, some of the youngest students could potentially kick off a staggered start of face-to-face instruction.
“I was really surprised to hear these things about let’s go back, let’s go back, because the science that’s coming out is that the way that this is spread is through closed environments,” said Patrick Lilja, a Guilford County Schools teacher and parent.
Lilja’s two elementary school-aged children are enrolled in the district’s virtual academy. He is a middle school teacher for Guilford E-learning University Prep and is concerned about his colleagues who may be put back in the classroom.
“If we worked in a state of the art office building I wouldn’t have as many concerns, but the state of the schools in Guilford County right now, most of the schools there is not good ventilation, there’s not good air circulation,” said Lilja.
It’s one reason why GCAE is proposing the ABC safety checklist, which asks for transparency, protective masks and safe ventilation in school buildings, and adopting a clear standard for safe COVID-19 metrics.
The group is also requesting the school system remain in Plan C with any return to in-person learning being voluntary.
Warren says the decision makers need to remember we are facing this crisis together.
“What we need in this moment is real leadership that helps to both lower the level of COVID-19 in our communities and to negotiate a truly safe reopening of public schools that is rooted in science and fully resourced,” said Warren.
The Guilford County School board will meet virtually at 3 p.m. on Thursday.