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'We need to monitor and adjust' | Some demand COVID-19 safety plans ahead of the new school year starting

An online petition is gathering signatures to present to local school boards and administrators.

NORTH CAROLINA, USA — With multiple variants of the COVID-19 virus, the result has been hundreds of thousands of infections. In some cases, people who have been infected multiple times. With the start of the new school year approaching, health advocates worry without a COVID-19 safety plan within schools, things may worsen.

Long Covid Families is a national nonprofit based in Charlotte that works with patients who experience lasting complications after getting the virus. The organization's concern is that more people may be at risk of getting long COVID.

“We now know because of the evolution of the virus that it is very easy for people to get re-infected," Long Covid Families founder Megan Carmilani said. "We don’t have a lot of conclusive evidence about what the effect of reinfection is, but the evidence we do have is concerning.”

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Long Covid Families along with other supporting organizations have created an online open letter, gathering signatures to present to schools boards and administrators about the need for a COVID-19 safety plan in schools.

Part of that plan includes improving classroom ventilation and returning to masks when there is a surge in cases.

"I think we need to monitor and adjust and if we do that we’d keep infections down, prevent disability, prevent loss of productivity and loss of learning," Carmilani said. 

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Some parents add without a plan they're even less likely to feel comfortable sending their at-risk children back into the classroom.

“I have twin girls and they are both in the Hospital/Homebound program with CMS," parent Stacy Staggs said. "A COVID infection for them would be catastrophic."

As part of the COVID-19 safety plan, the need for adequate cleaning supplies, protective gear and janitorial staff is another request.

Starting next week, Long Covid Families is hosting an online Back To School Conference to provide resources on COVID-19 prevention and advocacy in schools. Registration is free.

School Safety & Violence

The Center for Safer Schools sponsored a  back to school safety conference in Greensboro this week called The RISE Conference. The conference's title acronym stands for resiliency, information, support, and empowerment.

The goal is to give educators  and school leaders the tools to keep students safe.

“We want to focus not just on the physical safety, but the mental safety and the school climate because what we know what happens in the community comes into the school," Center for Safer Schools executive director Karen Fairley said.

RELATED: Active shooter training for first responders conducted at Indian Land High School

Some of this week's conversations at the conference included threat assessments, internet crimes against children, bullying and active shooter response. Superintendents, principals, school social workers and school resources officers were all invited to attend and discuss the best school safety decisions together.

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"Building better partnerships, being open to have these partnerships because it’s going to take all of us together to work to keep North Carolina schools safe," Fairley said.

The Center for Safer Schools says the goal is to have more conferences like this in other cities across the state once the new school year begins.

Contact Briana Harper at bharper@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.  

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