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Virtual Instruction Program Approved by Bladen Education Board

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By Charlotte Smith

The Bladen County Board of Education met on Thursday, September 16, 2021 for the purpose of discussing and taking action on a planned virtual instruction program and for personnel matters. All Board members attended the meeting either in-person or via Zoom.

Starting at 5:30 pm the Board voted to change the agenda and go into closed session after the attendance was taken to discuss personnel, to conduct hearings on grievances/appeals, and to consult with an attorney if needed. 

After the Board went into the closed session four concerned citizens walked in to show support for a virtual program.  While waiting on the Board to reconvene from closed session BladenOnline spoke with the public attending the meeting concerning the virtual learning. 

Jayden Dailey, a Bladen County high school student  said, “Being in school in-person you can’t social social distance yourself. I’ve had to squeeze by to get through hallways.” 

The Canvas program Bladen County Schools implemented for online learning is also an issue. Dailey mentioned, “Teachers don’t like Canvas and it’s difficult for students to submit their work.”

Mary Jessup, a Bladen County parent listed three reasons why she wants a virtual learning option for Bladen County Schools. Ms. Jessup explained some children are too young to be vaccinated, there are too many COVID-19 cases in schools, and students will be safer at home. 

Another parent, Jacqueline Thompson said her son had been exposed to COVID-19 by a teacher and other students. Ms. Thompson said, “He will be safer at home.”

The Board came out of closed session at  approximately 7:45 pm. There was no mention about any of the items discussed during the closed session portion of the meeting. 

The consideration of the Planned Virtual Instruction Program was presented by Bladen County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jason Atkinson. The Board was presented with a Virtual Learning Program packet which included a checklist, an application, a medical evaluation for students, and a Principal Recommendation form. View the full packet on Board Docs at: https://go.boarddocs.com/nc/bcsnc/Board.nsf/files/C6W4ZE0DF7EE/$file/BCS%20Planned%20Virtual%20Instruction%20Program_DRAFT.pdf

Board member Gary Rhoda made the motion to accept the Virtual Instruction Program.

Board member Alan West asked if the program would be for a specific set of students. Dr. Atkinson said the program is for a specific targeted population. 

The Virtual Instruction Program deadline is October 8th. If approved the program would begin in the second grading period of the 2021-2022 school year. 

Board member Singletary asked if students in quarantine would need to apply for the program. Dr. Atkinson said, “No, those students would fall under the emergency plan.” The emergency plan is a different program than the Virtual Instruction Program.

After the discussion about the program the motion for the Virtual Instruction Program passed unanimously. 

The Board allowed Ms. Jacqueline Thompson one of the parents in attendance to address the Board about her concerns regarding COVID-19 at East Bladen High School. 

Board member Corey Singletary asked if there was a full time nurse on duty at both the high schools. Dr. Atkinson replied there is one nurse that works both high schools, but the School Distrct is reaching out to the State for contracting nurses. Currently there is a total of seven nurses working in Bladen County Schools. 

Chairman of the Board, Roger Carroll brought up another issue about students who wear their masks and do not test positive for COVID-19 being sent home. Dr. Atkinson said the objective is to only quarantine students who need to be quarantined. There were a total of six students that tested positive for COVID-19 that caused a “mass” of students to be quarantined.  

Board member West asked for the criteria for a student to be quarantined. Dr. Atkinson said he would talk with Dr. Duncan, Bladen County Health and Human Services Director, about the guidelines. 

The meeting adjourned at 8:10.