Board Meeting Minutes » BOD Meeting Minutes - February 9, 2021

BOD Meeting Minutes - February 9, 2021

The meeting was called to order by Ellen Heck at 5:45pm.

Roll Call was conducted by Ellen Heck. Ellen Heck, Dara Silver, Christopher Gilmore, Kyle Barnes, Larry Barron, Ellen Coble, Brian Cole, Amber Dalholt, Brittany Emery, Kelly Emling, Tomisha Gladman, Chrissy Hardy, Jennifer Holman, Michelle Taylor Kennedy, Shannon Meares, Griff Morgan, Bill Scheidt, and Julia Toone were present

Non-voting Members: Principal Robin Hollis, Assistant Principal Paige Raper Parent Council Members: Katherine White, Becky Dickson

Shannon Meares moved to approve the January Minutes, which were emailed to the Board prior to the meeting. This was seconded by Christopher Gilmore. The minutes were approved by vote of The Board.

Kyle Barnes presented the January Financials, which were emailed to the Board prior to the meeting. The budget is being executed as planned. On behalf of the Finance Committee Kyle Barnes moved to accept the January Financials. This was seconded by Shannon Meares. The January Financials were approved by vote of the Board.

Griff Morgan made a statement on the recommendation from the Executive Committee regarding returning to in-person schools. National and Forsyth county statistics on cases, hospitalizations, and deaths were presented. Hospitalizations and new cases were reported to be down 31% and 16% respectively over the previous 14 days. On January 12 (the date of the last Board meeting) there were 4 teachers who were infected. Today, that number is zero. He reminded the Board that the we’d voted to reconsider the return to in-person learning on March 12 with the goal of returning on March 23. The Executive Committee felt that conditions impacting return to in-person learning were unlikely to change significantly in the month following that January meeting. However, the Committee remained open to reconsidering that recommendation, recognizing the situation remains fluid. While vaccination efforts are ongoing, it was pointed out that teachers were not in one of the large vaccination groups yet. On February 2, Governor Cooper called on all schools to open to in-person instruction via press conference in conjunction with the President of the State Board of Education and others. Support for this recommendation came from recently released research on COVID-19 transmission in schools, including a North Carolina study. The research indicates that in-school transmission of COVID-19 is low despite high rates of community transmission when strong preventive measures are in place. Growing harms to students’ academic progress, mental health, and food insecurity were cited as supporting reasons for returning to in-person instruction. It was also pointed out that a NC Senate bill was being considered that would require schools to re-open for in-person instruction within 15 days of its passage. The bill in its current state does not cover charter schools but could with a simple amendment. The call from the Governor and state education officials, pending legislation, and continued detrimental impacts of remote learning, and the potential to be forced into re-opening without significant time to plan influenced the Executive Committee to reconsider the original plan to wait until

March. Considering these factors along with declining rates of community transmission, and the published research, the Executive Committee has made the recommendation to begin a phased re-introduction to in-person instruction beginning on March 9 with parents selecting remote or in-person learning on or before February 16 with a potential second later decision date. The recommendation proposes that grades K-1 start on March 9 and grades 2-5 start on 3/16 in Plan A with minimal distancing and mandatory mask wearing. Grades 6-8 are recommended to start on 3/23 in Plan B with 6-foot distancing, every other day attendance, and mandatory mask wearing. Any student may continue with plan C remote learning, joining the classroom via Zoom for large-group and individualized small-group instruction. March 9 was chosen in order to complete the current trimester, to allow for completion of the currently scheduled MAP testing, to allow teachers to prepare for the return to classroom instruction, to allow time to hire a school nurse that will be funded by a recently awarded grant. Other factors included potentially increasing the number of teachers who are in the vaccination queue and the potential to have more time outside with more moderate weather. Strong preventative measures will include mandatory mask wearing, use of a health screening app, temperature taking in cars prior to drop-off, establishment of an isolation room for those students who begin to display symptoms while at school, social distancing guidelines for grades 6-8, handwashing breaks for all classes, outside lunch weather permitting, and the Pick My Kid Up app will be used to prevent afterschool congregating. With these things in mind, Mr. Morgan gave the formal Executive Committee recommendation to start the staggered return to in-person instruction beginning on March 9. Mr. Morgan then took time to highlight the fact that the pandemic has taken a toll on all of the faculty, staff, students, and parents of ABS. He emphasized the need to dialogue with a collaborative spirit in mind and called for decorum during the comment section of this evening’s meeting.

Larry Barron read a list of names from whom the Board received letters regarding the decision to return to in-person learning, indicating that each one of the letters has been read and will be taken into consideration in coming to the decision.

Ellen Heck then opened the floor to comments and questions from all in attendance. A robust 45-minute discussion ensued around several pertinent topics including, but not limited to

1)  Teacher Vaccinations
2)  Community Transmission
3)  Health and Safety Protocols
4)  Limitations of Student Participation in Remote Learning
5)  Limitations of the Research Used to Support the Governor’s Recommendation

The motion from the Executive Committee was voted on by the Board via roll call. The motion was defeated in a 9-8 vote. One Board member who had to leave the meeting early voted in the chat, but that vote was not counted due to it being cast outside of accepted guidelines.

The Principal’s Report was given by Robin Hollis. There were 236 applications in the enrollment lottery that was conducted prior to the Board meeting. The State Board of Education approved ABS for a weighted lottery to increase access to educationally disadvantaged students. That process will be implemented next year due to timing of the approval. One of the speech therapists and the middle school math teacher are currently out on medical leave. ABS was approved for the GEER (Governor’s Emergency Education Relief) Grant for $13K that will be used for nursing services. A nurse will be hired to assist in health and safety protocols for in-person instruction. The State has requested that we return to a traditional calendar of 180 days for next year. Robin Hollis requested a motion to approve the draft calendar. A motion was put forth by Dara Silver and seconded by Brian Cole. The motion passed with vote of the Board.

The Parent Council update was given by Becky Dickson. The parent survey was distributed and gained 256 responses. The data is being analyzed. The Parent Council will be taking an oversight role of the ABS Families’ Facebook page.

Larry Barron asked whether tonight’s decision on delaying the return to in-person learning would have an impact on preparation on the eventual return. Robin Hollis assured him that plans will continue to evolve daily.

Tomisha Gladman moved to end the meeting. Christopher Gilmore seconded. The motion was approved, and the meeting was adjourned. The meeting concluded at 7:06pm.