BY KARISSA MILLER
Some teachers are pushing back against Iredell-Statesville Schools’ plan for reopening school on August 17 under Plan B, which includes a mix of in-person teaching and remote learning.
Teachers who spoke to Iredell Free News feel they have not been given the opportunity for meaningful input, and they are asking the school board to take another look at the district’s plan and close safety gaps.
The I-SS plan, teachers said, could result in students, staff and faculty being put at significant risk for contracting coronavirus.
“Reopening a middle school under Plan B is risky at best,” East Iredell Middle School teacher Leigh Brown said.
Students at East Middle will spend an hour a day with seven or eight different teachers in an “ever-changing mix of students as they move through seven classes,” she said.
Furthermore, she said that she’s read the CDC guidelines for reopening schools assumes that students are grouped in cohorts, staying in one place while teachers move between classrooms.
Some teachers at East Middle teach multiple grade levels due to budget challenges, which further complicates things.
Brown is also skeptical that school personnel can enforce social distancing guidelines.
“We are left with students switching classes in hallways that simply aren’t long enough to allow six feet between each student — seven times a day,” she said.
Celeste Henkel Elementary teacher Liam McMahon wonders if returning to the classroom will do more harm than good.
“I have mixed emotions. I’m excited to go back to school, but I’m also terrified. I’m scared that I might do something to harm them (students). I try and live my life doing no harm to people,” he said.
McMahon is concerned that he could make his students sick if he contracts COVID-19.
“I could be asymptomatic and unknowingly spread it to children that I’m charged with protecting. This does not sit well with my morals,” McMahon explained.
South Iredell High School teacher Megan Skouby, who is at a school that will be 100 percent virtual, said she’s speaking out on behalf of fellow teachers, bus drivers, and employees across the district who are afraid to return to work.
“We are scared, terrified, anxious to return our classroom, buses and schools. We all want to be back in the classroom. We all want to see our kids, but at what cost?” she said.
Bus drivers also face additional stress.
“How will our bus drivers — the first point of contact — be able to safely drive while monitoring spacing and masks or with the preoccupation that no temperature check has been done before a student gets on the bus?”
South Iredell teacher Lynne Rainwater said that people are criticizing teachers for speaking up about their concerns with the virus.
Rainwater and other teachers have seen forums and social media comments that they found offensive, particularly those where they have been accused of not wanting to work.
“Now, we’re lazy,” Rainwater said. “No! I’ve worked harder with remote instruction than I ever have as a teacher. We need to stop placing blame. We need to demand our state and federal government to fund our schools.”
Back in March, when the governor ordered districts statewide to provide 100 percent remote instruction, Rainwater said she felt wonderful being a teacher as parents and the community rallied behind teachers as they prepared in less than a week’s time to teach students remotely.
“We are being ugly with one another and it’s an ‘us vs. them.’ What needs to happen is it’s going to take all of us as a community to fix this,” Rainwater said.