Crime report | Robesonian
LUMBERTON – The Robeson County Public Schools Education Board has voted to require all students and staff to wear a mask regardless of their immunization status when they return to school next year.
The mask recommendation was made by Superintendent Freddie Williamson.
“I ask for your approval for the wearing of universal masks in buildings and on buses,” said Williamson.
Mask requirements will be reviewed every 30 days, he said.
The approval vote was taken without opposition, but after long discussions. During the discussion, Randy Lawson, a member of the board of directors, asked the superintendent to make a recommendation.
Board member Vonta Leach asked why a school in the southern part of the county had not been closed after cases of COVID-19 were reported on its campus. Leach compared it to another school that was closed two days before summer school ended after a group was identified on its campus.
A cluster consists of five or more people connected through contact tracing, according to Stephanine Locklear, PSRC’s health services supervisor.
Locklear and Williamson responded to Leach’s concerns, saying students exposed in the classroom and on the bus had been sent home. Symptoms only developed when the exposed students were at home in quarantine, which did not place a “group” on the school campus.
Closing the school campus was not the appropriate course of action, Locklear said.
The superintendent said if a school were to be closed for the safety of students, their health would not be compromised.
“It is not our intention to endanger anyone,” said Williamson.
School board president Mike Smith said the situation remains “fluid” as has been described in the past. The number of cases in Robeson County appear to be “moving targets,” but the school administration will reassess its action plan if necessary as the numbers continue to change, he said.
Bobby Locklear, assistant superintendent of ancillary services, shared information about the upcoming school year.
Unlike last year, state officials are not offering the option of distance learning as a substitute for in-person learning, he said. On the contrary, all students are invited to return to class.
“Currently, we don’t have the option for students to be at home,” he said.
The exceptions to distance learning are students with medical needs. These cases will be reviewed by district leaders and parents before a decision is made.
“There are no options for virtually home teaching,” said Melissa Thompson, assistant superintendent of human resources.
If positive cases are identified in schools and educators fall ill, the human resources department will work with them on a case-by-case basis, said Erica Setzer, PSRC’s finance director.
Bobby Locklear said around 10,000 desktop screens have been ordered.
“So now we should have over 30,000 desktop screens,” he said.
The temperature monitoring stations will no longer be in place, Locklear said. The Assistant Superintendent also recommends that students continue to eat in class. Athletes who do not participate in physical activity indoors should wear a face mask.
As the PSRC teams travel, they will need to continue to follow the guidelines put in place by the PSRC, said Jerome Hunt, district athletic director. These guidelines will remain in place for visiting sports teams.
Students and staff who are directly exposed to someone infected with COVID-19 should self-quarantine for 14 days. People who test positive for the virus must self-quarantine for 10 days. People who have been vaccinated do not have to quarantine themselves unless symptoms develop.
Isolation rooms in schools will remain in place, said Stephanine Locklear.
The buses can return to their normal capacities, said Robert Guzman, director of the PSRC’s transport department.
Board member Craig Lowry has called for schools to be monitored and principals to be held accountable when safety guidelines are not followed.
“People have to be held accountable,” Lowry said.
As the discussion about the upcoming school year continued, board members raised concerns.
“I’m just wondering if logistically this is all feasible,” said Terry Locklear, school board member.
“We fail our kids if we don’t go back to school,” Lawson said.
“Either way, it’s a double-edged sword,” Board member Dwayne Smith said of the reinstatement decision.
But one thing the board members all agreed on was the success of the district’s summer recovery and learning enrichment camps.
Forty-six third-graders who attended the summer camps demonstrated reading skills through the i-Ready assessments and 30 students demonstrated reading skills through the Read to Achieve assessment, according to Sandra Evans, supervisor of the PSRC K-8 program. These students were not previously proficient in reading.
Linda Emanuel, a board member, said the program was “probably the most interesting summer program” she had seen since her tenure.
“You now have a model for doing things next summer,” Lowry said.
However, Setzer said the investment in the summer school program was almost $ 12 million in external funding that the school system is unlikely to secure in the future.
Students who have not achieved growth will be transferred to a transition course in Grades 3 to 4, with 90 minutes of uninterrupted instruction, she said. It will be the same for the pupils of the first to the third year.
“We will try to meet them where they are,” said Burnette.
Evans also stated that the following students at PSRC high schools have earned or regained credits through the summer program: 769, Fairmont; 783, Lumberton; 637, Purnell Swett; 622, red springs; and 586, St. Pauls.
After coming out of a closed session to discuss certified / graded staff, board members approved the staff changes. Among the topics discussed was the hiring of coaches and academic mentors.
Board member Vonta Leach said teachers are being pulled from classrooms to become academic coaches and mentors, as teacher shortages and high turnover persist.
Windy Dorsey-Carr, executive director of school transformation at PSRC, said the positions would be used to help support and mentor teachers, help with lesson plans, data and teaching.