MONROE – Union County Public Schools will shift to remote learning from Jan. 4 to 8 to allow more time to review county health data.
Superintendent Andrew Houlihan told the school board Dec. 30 that the extra time will also allow school nurses to contact families or staff that may have tested positive or been exposed to COVID-19.
“We believe that that one day simply will not be enough time to comb through the data, to contact individual students and staff and to make plans as needed,” Houlihan said.
School board member Kathy Heintel said the change amounts to three days for students since Jan. 4 was already a teacher workday and Fridays are used for remote learning. Union County Early College students will begin classes on Jan. 4.
School board chair Melissa Merrell said she could accept the trade-off of allowing nurses three extra days to catch up with county data rather than risk letting potential exposures into schools and having to shut them down for 14 days.
“We have done a good job by being proactive and keeping positive cases and known exposures out of our buildings,” said Jarred McCraw, assistant superintendent of student support. “We just don’t want that to happen by not being thorough with our practice on Jan. 4. We need those three days to go through that data.”
Houlihan’s recommendation doesn’t affect athletics, which prompted Gary Sides to cast the lone vote against the measure.
Sides said he could not reconcile sports continuing when students could not return to the classrooms. He offered a friendly amendment to shut down sports to Heintel’s motion to approve Houlihan’s recommendation, but she did not accept it.
“Sports have been going on during the break already,” Heintel said. “They have their own pots and their own protocols.”
The school board also voted to pay hourly employees for the three days they will not be able to work and to move their next meeting to Jan. 12.
School board member Jimmy Bention encouraged the district to bring such matters to the board as quickly as possible to allow parents enough time to make adjustments. The emergency board meeting was called the day prior after receiving feedback from the county.
School officials stressed they value in-person learning.
UCPS convenes in-person four days a week at its elementary schools, using Fridays as a remote learning day. As soon as the governor allows districts to welcome back middle and high schools for in-person instruction, Merrell said she is sure the school board would convene another meeting to discuss it.