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.

9 thoughts on “I-SS teacher: ‘We are scared, terrified, anxious to return our classroom, buses and schools’

  1. Michelle Smith says:

    All valid points. I really feel the board needs to take another look and maybe change their decision before it gets out of control and there’s an epidemic within the Iredell-Statesville School System.

    I would like to take this time and say that I do appreciate everything that all the staff, teachers, maintenance does for my children. I’m very grateful. Good luck with the new school year!

  2. Our school board and administration need to be clear on what methodologies will be used. Will students stay in the same classroom most of the day and have teachers switch? This would seem to be the best solution at minimizing multiple contacts throughout the day. But yeah, what if students are signed up for different classes? It all becomes problematic.

    The only good thing is that we have data from Sweden showing that while they kept their schools open, they actually ended up with less percentage of cases among students and teachers (as a group) than did their neighbor nations which did go into lock down.

    But we need clear, logical guidance on what procedures are to be followed if and when a student or staff member tests positive for Covid-19. It can’t be a “make it up as you go” strategy.

  3. My son wants to go to school and get out of the house like I know all other kids do, and I know that missing this much school is affecting this generation in ways that we see now and in others we probably don’t even know about yet. I also know that school is basically daycare for parents to be able to go work, and that is affecting the economy negatively not having babysitters because my family has that problem too. On the other hand, I see this virus encroaching on our county at an exponential rate everyday. It is speeding up not slowing down, and this is with schools closed. We all know how hard it is to keep kids separated and how invincible they feel like they are. I just really wish ISS would listen to the teachers, the ones that know how our kids behave at school better than us, the ones that know the layout of the school and the plans they have and abilities they have to implement them. Lastly I hope they look at what other districts and even other countries have done, some have had success others not so much, and learn from those experiences. I know what I have seen from adults in public and I won’t be able to be at school with my son to make sure nobody is too close to him or not wearing a mask or not washing their hands and not taking this seriously or respecting others safety. I’m not an epidemiologist, that’s why I try to listen the ones that are.

    • Thank you Sam for your insightful comment. I think I speak for most teachers when I say , “ I cannot wait to go back – but it terrifies me at the same time.” We have been given 5 days to learn, anticipate, predict how to reach every student no matter their decision of instruction. I am a teacher because I value connections and I try to reach each student – but now I am crippled by the path each of us must choose.

  4. 99% survival rate. Grow up … if they dont want to return to the class room then we need to demand our money back. No more taxes taking out for schooling.

    200,000 false cases in North Carolina and I’m sure the number is higher.

    • What happens when one of those cases that everyone thinks is fake is your son or daughter? This is about money; not human lives. This is not the flu. I see the death everyday. Until you see it firsthand, then you can’t or won’t understand until it hits home.

    • Please come to my school Monday, August 17. You will find the most “ grown up people” that try beyond measure to become something they cannot envision. In their hearts they (I) am trying to plan how best to educate, not babysit the students we entrusted to.

  5. How can it be safe to open schools, when we are not supposed to congregate indoors at movies, bowling alleys, museums, etc that are NOT open? Sustained indoor contact is how this virus is spread.

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