Cooper to Educators: “Good luck!”

Governor choose plan B for all

I should have seen this coming. Really, I should have. Especially back on July 1 when the decision was made to postpone setting out what districts should do to start off the school year.

The decision has been made and Plan B is how we will enter into the school year. My confidence in the Governor has absolutely cratered.

Here’s some of my initial reactions and questions from the Governor’s press conference.

  1. The plan mentions making sure that there is a place to isolate kids who present with symptoms. Does this mean we are already admitting that students will take dayquil in the morning and then be sent to school?
  2. We are being told to limit the sharing of classroom materials. Where is that money going to come from? Educators already spend hundreds of dollars on supplies.
  3. What happens when a student refuses to wear a mask because their parent is an anti-mask person?
  4. What happens when a student loses their mask halfway through the day?
  5. Will I be getting paid more for all these extra jobs I’m going to be expected to do? (We know the answer to this one)
  6. Why were we forced to watch a PR ad for the AAP missive that was roundly criticized by educators?
  7. Do we really think kids are going to learn good social skills while being yelled at to wear their mask and stay 6 feet apart by terrified teachers?
  8. Will I lose my job after 10 days knowing that the NCGA will not be addressing funding from the ADM?
  9. How dare you make us go to school after someone tests positive?

I’m sure that there are more questions, but that’s all I can think about now while my blood boils. I was floored. Absolutely floored. That we received all of these platitudes from the Governor of how amazing we are and how we will make this work. Oh? Really? How? Because as it seems right now, my students and I are about to be used as lab rats for the government.

But don’t worry, local districts and businesses can provide more PPE.

Before the NC GOP thinks that they’re off the hook here. There’s criticism for them too. They have tried to place us all back into school for the first 5 days. Every. single. person. They have refused to put a NURSE in the building every day. They have also contributed to this dangerous mess we find ourselves in.

To top all of this off – 20% of all cases in Wake County where I live and teach are for people ages 10-24 as of 7/14. Kids can be in high school until the are 21 years old.

I’m scared. I’m wondering – do I need to have a will drawn up? How do I do that?

The union for educators in North Carolina, NCAE, has called on all educators to sign the following petition. I encourage you all to do that. I also encourage you all to fight like hell for our safety.

Welcome to the Danger Zone

NCGA Edition

THEY’REEEE BACKKKKKK.

Pro-Trump, Anti-Science. No, I’m not talking about the ReOpenNC protesters who were in Raleigh again this morning, but the Republican led North Carolina General Assembly gaveled into session today to address the beginning of North Carolina’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before we go any further, I am going to do something I might regret later. I want to give kudos to House Republicans who when formulating their proposals seemed to sincerely incorporate input from House Democrats, appointing Democrats as co-chairs, and at one point even allowing a Democrat, Rep Ashton Clemmons, to lead one of the sessions.

Now, enter the Senate and Phil Berger. What a story of two different chambers.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit North Carolina, we have not heard much of anything from Senator Berger. While, the House was having transparent, live-streamed, committee meetings… the Senate was doing… well, no one really knows what the Senate was doing but, today they did release their proposed bill. And phew, is it a doozy.

To start off, both Stu Egan over at Caffeinate Rage and Justin Parmenter over at Notes From the Chalkboard have discussed the obscene suggestion that growth will be equal in this remote learning setting as it would if we were having in-person classes.

Now, I’m not going to recycle their words, but I highly recommend you click on the two links above to read what Stu and Justin said. It’s unreasonable for the Senate to suggest this.

I wish that was all, but there’s more garbage in the Senate proposal.

There’s also this piece,

Within the first two weeks of returning to in-person instruction from the traumatic experience that has been COVID-19, the NCGA wants our elementary school students to go through high-stakes testing. It is important to note that this specific piece is in the House bill as well.

After at least 5 months without in-person instruction, the NCGA wants our elementary school students to have to take tests.

Are any of us truly surprised?

YOUNGSVILLE ACADEMY IS NOT ALONE

Charter school in Pamlico County also mandating staff go to school

When news broke earlier this week that the charter school Youngsville Academy was mandating that their educators return to school, it spread like wildfire among educators. When WRAL put the story on the evening news, it spread throughout the state. The whistleblower from that school was identified based on their voice, and has been put on leave. As Justin Parmenter notes here via OSHA and WRAL, “it is illegal for employers to terminate employees for reporting unsafe working conditions.”

Since writing about Youngsville Academy, I have learned that they are not the only charter school in the state of North Carolina to be mandating that their educators report to work.

The culprit, is Arapahoe Charter School. According to their website, Arapahoe Charter School enrolls approximately 550 students in grades K-12 from Pamlico County in four surrounding counties.

Sources (who will remain anonymous to protect their job) say that,

“We have to work one day a week at the school. However, the school is open everyday from 8 am to 3 pm. On Mondays the K-5 teachers work all day, Tuesdays the middle school teachers work all day, Wednesdays the high school teachers work all day and Thursdays they have elective classes staff there doing work. The TAs have to work everyday from 8 am to 3 pm doing miscellaneous jobs and have even been assigned to clean our fire house where inventory is kept. Students and parents come to the school during various times to pick up materials and work packets. One of the teachers was written up for staying at home with her two children on a “workday”.

Yes, in the midst of a global pandemic, teachers are being written up to care for their children. In fact, for the first TWO weeks after Governor Roy Cooper closed North Carolina public schools, employees were required to report to school every single day. The educators at Arapahoe are afraid to publicly speak out saying,

“No one can say anything because we are at will employees and the governors orders leave the decisions up to the local school boards and administrators”

Who can blame them, after what the whistleblower from Youngsville Academy is now going through?

School closings began on March 16th. March 17th Arapahoe had what has been described as an “over capacitated staff meeting.” While I do not know if that the staff meeting was over the 100 people maximum that was set by Governor Roy Cooper at the time, it is obvious that staff did not feel safe.

Questions were asked of Chief Executive Director, Chris Watson. Questions that according to staff went unanswered,

“What does an “optional day” mean to us currently at ACS? Does it mean that we have the option [original emphasis] to come to work from school or remotely from home? Does it mean that if we do not come to work during our “shift” that we will have to use our annual leave days? If we have prepared lessons and resources for students (virtually and on paper) over the past few days, do we have the option [original emphasis] to work from home and be available to our students and parents via email while completing the work document that you discussed? Can you please define “Optional Work Days” [again original emphasis] for us? Is this your decision as a Director or the ACS Board of Directors’ decision.

What defines “to the extent feasible” for ACS employees? … In the same respect, who or what defines “safe work environment”? Does this take into account the many teachers who have their children with them on a daily basis due to the current conditions in the country? Does this take into account the staff members who may be dealing with compromised immune systems due to illnesses, pregnancy, recovering from surgery or prior illnesses, or any other medical condition?”

After Governor Roy Cooper’s March 27th Stay at Home Order, Mr. Watson followed with another all staff email saying,

“For purposes of the Executive Order, educational institutions, including preK-12 public schools, are listed as essential business.”

He went on to say,

“In addition to the above, social distancing requirements set forth in the order now require everyone to do the following;

a. maintain at least six (6) feet distancing from other individuals;

b. wash hands using soap and water for at least twenty (20) seconds as frequently as possible or the use of hand sanitizer;

c. regularly clean high-touch surfaces; and

d. facilitate online or remote access for customers if possible.”

School leadership has not offered any rationale for making staff go into the building in the midst of a global pandemic. While in the building, minimal time is spent preparing packets for those students who do not have internet access. That’s it.

Arapahoe Charter School, Chief Executive Director Chris Watson, and the Board of Directors are risking the lives of their staff and community.

And for what? Control?