Onslow school board discusses COVID communication, public comments in special meeting

The board took no action on either topic, but board members say they could bring up changes at its regular meeting next Tuesday.
Published: Jan. 26, 2021 at 6:58 PM EST
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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Changes could be right around the corner for how Onslow County Schools communicates COVID information to teachers, staff, parents and students.

During a special called meeting Tuesday, the board discussed its current plan of communicating COVID information, which involves making individual phone calls to parents and employees who may have been exposed to the virus.

But teachers in the district are asking for more.

“Nobody wants to think they could go to work, get sick and possibly die,” said Chris Meek, the Vice President for the Onslow County Association of Educators. “We know the district is doing everything they can to give us the information that they can. But how do people digest that information?”

Teachers in the district are asking for better transparency from the school system regarding the risk of COVID at their jobs. They’re asking the board to create a COVID alert system to show the level of spread in individual schools.

Similar systems have already been created at other districts across the state. Craven County School District’s system shows lights for the level of spread in individual schools, without showing the specific numbers of confirmed cases.

The COVID alert system for Havelock County Schools on Tuesday, January 26.
The COVID alert system for Havelock County Schools on Tuesday, January 26.(Craven County Schools)

Publishing the number of cases is an alley the school system says they don’t want to go down for privacy concerns.

“We understand and realize the seriousness of what we have,” said Onslow Schools Spokesperson Brent Anderson. “Making the individual phone calls and keeping it as close to the source of people that are impacted and need to know as possible has helped to keep things calm for our school system.”

The school board discussed the district’s current plan during a special meeting on Tuesday.

“There is something to be said for keeping a calm and yet focused perspective on what we’re doing and what the plan is,” said Board Member Ken Reddic during the meeting.

The school board took no action on the topic Tuesday, but school board members tell WITN News that they could bring up a new way of communicating that information at their regular meeting on Tuesday February 3.

“After a year of all this mounting pressure, I see it on teacher’s faces all the time,” said Meek. “We can’t give up and we can’t give up hope.”

The school board also discussed potential changes to public comment periods during the board meetings, they could change the order and manner in which relevant comments are made by the public at their regular meeting, as well.

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