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Divided response on Governor Cooper’s call to return to all in-person learning

Many teachers hoped to be vaccinated before this next step, while others say it’s long overdue to get students back on track in the classroom.

CABARRUS COUNTY, N.C. — North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper strongly urged that all schools provide in-person learning for students, making the announcement in a news briefing Tuesday afternoon. But the news sparked a split response from educators who support opposing sides of this decision.

The Cabarrus County School Board says it will continue its plans to have K-3 grade students return to Plan A all in-person learning starting Feb. 16. The district feels confident this is the best decision to get students and staff back into the school as quickly and safely as possible.

RELATED: Gov. Cooper strongly urges all schools to provide in-person learning for students

“We’ve been told by the Cabarrus County Health Alliance that Cabarrus County schools has done a phenomenal job making our campuses one of the safest places for students and staff to be,” Cabarrus County Board of Education Chair Holly Grimsley said.

On the other hand, some teachers in the district have continued to protest the Plan A return with several concerns.

“I was shocked and disappointed today to hear we’re not making any changes to the schedule for teachers to get vaccinated sooner,” Cabarrus County teacher Meredith Newman said.

RELATED: Cabarrus County parents, educators call for more protections 

She says teachers should be considered essential and be one of the first to get the vaccine as is the case in 25 other states already vaccinating teachers. 

Another concern is the ability to properly socially distance once all students are back in the classroom at the same time.

“Of course our student’s safety is paramount,” Newman said. “That’s at the forefront of a teacher’s mind always.”

The school board agrees and says plenty of personal protective equipment (PPE) will be provided along with consistent hand washing and mandatory mask wearing all day.

Board members say these are the best steps they believe will allow students back into the classroom where the best and most safe learning can occur.

“Most kids need structure," Grimsley said. "Most kids need that educator."

Cabarrus County students in 4th and 5th grade are expected to return to Plan A all in-person learning by March 15. All other students in the district will continue learning on the hybrid plan, and those students who want to stay all-virtual have the option to do so. 

The district also plans to try and accommodate teachers with pre-existing conditions who don’t feel comfortable returning to the classroom as well.