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Fear, praise among range of emotions for Gaston County Schools' reopening plans

Gaston County Schools will have alternating schedules with in-person instruction two days out of the week and virtual learning the rest of the week.

GASTONIA, N.C. — Teachers, administrators and families have mixed opinions and emotions after the Gaston County Board of Education approved a blended plan for reopening schools Monday night.

Students will go to school in-person on alternating schedules two days out of the week and sit for virtual learning the other three days of the week.

Retired educator Dot Guthrie, who worked in schools for nearly 50 years, was the only board member who voted against bringing children back to classrooms in-person.

She argued there are too many unanswered questions on a range of topics, including who will monitor social distancing on the school bus and how to adjust for nurses who work in multiple schools during the week.

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"We should have had more already planned before we moved to the final vote," Guthrie said. "The level of comfort that I was seeking before the meeting [Monday], I did not get that."

Pam Miller is a first-grade teacher and the president of the Gaston County North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE).

She said her fellow teachers wanted to start the school year online and only allow kids back into classrooms once COVID-19 numbers drop to pre-March 16, 2020 levels.

"Our educators have older parents that they're taking care of; they have children that they're taking care of or they have their own health issues," Miller said. "It's a really scary time for them."

Karen Turner's daughter is going into the sixth grade, and she applied to the county's virtual academy.

"It would be bad enough if she got it, but then she brings it home to us," Turner said. "If one of us were to get it, God forbid, and end up in the hospital and end up dying, I don't want that on her head."

Angela Skidmore's daughter will be returning to Hunter Huss High School for her senior year, and Skidmore believed children should receive in-person instruction all five days of the week.

"The board, I think, made a very good decision," Skidmore said. "The staff at Huss [are] very good people, and I know they'll follow the safety precautions and everything to keep everyone safe so I'm not concerned at all."

For more information on Gaston County's reopening plans, click here.

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