A decision that’s divided school districts across the state. When should students return?
“Some schools are staying open and doing great, other schools are getting fearful and shutting down,” said Dr. Christopher Ohl, an infectious disease expert with Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
Dr. Ohl is among the health professionals Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools is consulting about its re-entry plan.
“Here in Forsyth County, they’ve decided to leave school open through first grade, for the first graders, which I think is fine. I don’t see any problem with that. It’s going well for them,” said Dr. Ohl.
But earlier this week, the school board decided to wait until January to bring back grades 2-12. On Thursday, during his weekly COVID-19 address, Dr. Ohl expressed frustration with people protesting reopening schools.
“There’s a group of people that have been extremely vocal and they’ve developed a life of their own and a crusade against opening schools, and there’s a lot of misinformation, disinformation, and ignorance of science quite frankly in that group,” said Dr. Ohl.
A few hours later he issued a statement hoping to add context to his comments about schools reopening.
“I know Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools and other school systems are facing incredibly difficult decisions and they are doing the best they can. I have worked with and supported WS/FCS throughout the pandemic and will continue to do so. My comments were not directed toward the WS/FCS school system, the school board or to the majority of parents, teachers or stakeholders. I think it’s time to have a science-based and not emotional dialogue about getting our kids back in school safely. I know it’s difficult but I also know it can be done. We really are all in this together and I know we all want the best for our children.” – Christopher Ohl, M.D., infectious disease expert at Wake Forest Baptist Health.
“I think we need to look at real science, and the schools are safer than the Halloween party, the schools are safer than going to a brew pub and getting pizza, the schools are safer than having friends over to your house, the schools are pretty much safer than anywhere else around,” said Dr. Ohl.
A district official says their recommendations to the board are never based on one expert’s knowledge. WS/FC schools consults with ABC Science Collaborative, the Forsyth County Health Department, and infectious disease teams with Wake Forest Baptist and Novant Health.
“Our bars are open, the restaurants are open, our fitness centers are open. These are play areas for adults and we won’t open our schools. Shame on us as a society. What’s important?” said Dr. Ohl.
The district says if it had brought older students back before the end of the year the first new cohort would only have 8 days of in-person learning between Thanksgiving and Christmas break.