Welcome to the Coronavirus edition of WCPSS Updates. Wash your hands before reading.
Parents have watched day by day after the announcement that North Carolina’s first Coronavirus cases were in Wake County. The last two days have sort of unfolded like this for families in Wake County.
March 13: WCPSS schools are not closing. CDC says not to.
March 14: Psych! Yes, WCPSS schools are closing even though CDC still says not to.
As I wrote yesterday in the #NCED Updates, the state’s largest district is also the location of the majority of COVID-19 cases in the state so far.
Four days ago, a petition to temporarily close Wake County Schools was started and it had already gained over 26,000 signatures as of yesterday morning just prior to WCPSS announcing it was closing all schools until at least March 27.
That petition is almost to 29,000 signatures this morning.
The news WCPSS was closing came just ahead of the announcement yesterday that Gov. Roy Cooper was issuing an executive order to close all North Carolina public schools through the end of March. That order also bans mass gatherings of 100 people or more in small or medium-sized areas. I’ll address the executive order later on in this article, but here is the section about schools:
I have emailed the governor’s office asking if “public schools” as cited in the order include charter schools, which are also by definition public schools in North Carolina. I’ve also asked if there is any intent to extend it to private schools.
Included in the WCPSS closure announcement was information that a Fuquay Varina elementary school teacher has tested positive for COVID-19. At the governor’s press conference yesterday, NC Dept. of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen was asked about this person. Cohen indicated that they were tracing their movements to identify those who may have been exposed and that notifications and testing were underway.
While this is the first time WCPSS has admitted they have an employee with a case, there have already been three Coronavirus cases linked to private schools in Wake County.
There was no mention in the closure statement of a particular High School in the statement, yet I have confirmed through a source that two students at this high school have a parent who is positive and whose case is linked to the Biogen conference as an outbreak source.
On March 12, I asked Tim Simmons, Chief of Communications for WCPSS, specifically about this high school report. He said at that time they had received no information about any WCPSS school.
“We have been assured by state and local health officials that we will be contacted when a student or staff members tests presumptive positive for COVID-19,” Simmons wrote in an email response.
“We have received no information from them regarding any WCPSS school. They have also stressed to us that a quarantine does not mean someone has tested presumptive positive. Quarantines are precautionary,” said Simmons.
WCPSS’s closure statement also indicated that to cover the time out of school, the district is using all banked time, teacher workdays and is also moving Spring Break, but the release does not give any other details about what that entails.
The statement also does not give any information re-opening as it is likely going to be a “wait and see” type of situation.
Here’s the full statement:
ALL SCHOOLS IN THE WAKE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM WILL BE CLOSED BEGINNING MONDAY, MARCH 16 THROUGH AT LEAST FRIDAY, MARCH 27.
All schools in the Wake County Public School System will be closed beginning Monday, March 16 through at least Friday, March 27. This includes all before and after-school programs.
The district is moving Spring Break, moving all remaining teacher work days and using any remaining bank time.
Saturday, public health officials notified our district that a staff member associated with Fuquay-Varina Elementary School tested positive for COVID-19. Our decision to close all schools has been difficult. Despite our desire to follow guidance from health officials as we collectively work to minimize the impact of this pandemic, we also want to listen and be responsive to the feedback from our families and staff. We realize that our decision to close schools presents various hardships for many of our families.
We will be working with community partners during this time to develop solutions around minimizing the negative impact school closing will have on our students and their families.
Staff Leave, Benefits and Compensation
We will send information to employees soon.
We understand that employees will have many questions regarding how this unprecedented situation could impact work and leave as well as calendars, compensation and benefits. Answers to some of these questions will depend on decisions made at the state level and could even require changes in state law. For this reason, it may take some time to get clarity around solutions for these challenges.
Please know that we are doing everything we can to identify solutions and will provide you with additional information as soon as it is available. Continue to monitor your WCPSS email account and WakeConnect for updates.
Supplemental Learning Resources
The Wake County Public School System believes that every student, each day, deserves access to rigorous, relevant and engaging learning opportunities.
While we cannot replace the value of the teacher-student interaction in the classroom we are working to provide supplemental resources and activities that will help students remain engaged in learning while schools are closed. Check the WCPSS website homepage periodically for additional updates.
Updates on Reopening
We will provide updates on the reopening of schools on a regular basis as we monitor this situation.
We appreciate your support, cooperation and patience during this time.
Earlier this week, Supt. Moore said…
Earlier this week at the school board meeting on Tuesday, March 10, Supt. Cathy Moore talked about what was being done by the district in response to the Coronavirus.
“I appreciate these are extraordinary measures by normal standards, but I am confident in the Health Department guidance that we are following is in our best interests,” Moore said on Tuesday.
That same night, the board voted to give Moore the power “to take any lawful action and to temporarily waive Board policies as necessary in response to potential risks associated with the coronavirus.”
The district’s investiture of Moore with these new powers was coupled with some backpedaling on earlier statements in which the district said that only people who have symptoms can spread the Coronavirus. WCPSS substituted that language by stating that while the risk is “very low,” the district wouldn’t say there’s “zero chance of transmission” from asymptomatic people.” Families can no longer read those statements. Keep reading to see why.
Original WCPSS Coronavirus Guidance and News updates disappear
WCPSS has a very nasty habit of moving information, which creates broken links or taking information down altogether. The latter is the case this morning.
Wake County’s 180-degree position change from one day to the next is accompanied by the removal of past notices.
The note on Facebook from earlier this past week is no longer there. Families around the district received a text message like this one with the link to it at the end:
[WCPSS] District update to COVID-19 (Coronavirus): http://j.mp/2TFypYb
Also gone is the guidance page linked to by individual WCPSS school websites that went to the district’s original guidance. When attempting to access the original guidance and news posted earlier in March and February, this message came up:
All trace of previous Coronavirus updates are gone from the front page and from the monthly news items page, save the March 14 closure notice. This removal is both unhelpful and a great way to panic families.
In lieu of anything useful being maintained on the WCPSS site, here are some other state and national level resources:
- Dept. of Public Instruction COVID-19 Guidance
- CDC Guidance for K-12 School Districts
- NC Board of Education statement on Corornavirus & support of Governor’s EO
- NC Board of Education Resolution and EO Documents on Google Docs
- NC Board of Education Resolution
More About Cooper’s Executive Order
The order highlights the use of “social distancing” but has two main components which are closing the schools and banning mass gatherings of 100 people or more.
It is unclear right now if Cooper actually has the authority to ban such gatherings and undoubtedly in the coming weeks there will be conversations and news articles picking that section apart.
The concern bubbling up across the state is that that part of the order makes such anyone at such a gathering guilty of a Class 2 Misdemeanor. How does one enforce that, exactly?
The other concern with this language is that church-going citizens are unclear if that means they can be arrested for attending services. Some churches seem to think it is possible and the Raleigh Diocese has already canceled mass to “comply” with Cooper’s order.
Other WCPSS News
Wake County parents are still fighting MVP Math and keep finding information that the consulting group hired to ‘review the implementation process’, MGT, had omitted from their reports last year. MGT was paid tens of thousands to review the implementation and did not actually review the curriculum itself.
Busing for Magnets
WCPSS Board is talking about providing busing for its sacred Magnet schools after spending years smearing charters for not being required to, yet many do. This call comes amid the fact special needs kids are still struggling with consistent transportation.
Fire Hedrick petition still going
Over 1,900 signatures have landed on a petition calling for the firing of Green Hope High Principal Camille Hedrick.
Activist WCPSS Board member Christine Kushner, whose seat is up for reelection this year, appears to be ignoring the petition, as well as the complaints from GHHS families.
More SEL Garbage Disguised as Education
Apex Middle School is rolling out an “elective” called “Exploring Social and Emotional Skills” This “elective” is listed under “Career and Technical Education”
Basic instruction on Family and Consumer Sciences foundation and skills. Students explore how social and emotional skills develop, and strategies to support and encourage healthy social and emotional skill development.
When looking into this course, I came across a journal that had a section in it called “Teaching for Personal and Socially Responsible Action.” The main thrust of this journal entry is emotion over reason, which is the whole point of SEL exercises. One excerpt gives away the farm:
“Rather than teaching didactically, FCS courses help students engage in problem solving and deep critical reflection about how their actions and behavior affect others. FCS teachers stimulate students’ “moral imaginations” by drawing on their emotional sides—their caring, concern, and empathy, or their feelings of sorrow, disgust, or outrage.”
My advice to parents would be to contact Principal Monica Yllanes by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org before this “elective” becomes cemented in place.