A letter sent to Gov. Roy Cooper this week by North Carolina’s affiliate of the teachers union the National Education Association asks the governor for “significant executive action” to “curb” the spread of COVID-19.
The North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) issued the letter to Cooper on Jan. 13 is the group’s latest effort arguing against the state’s K-12 schools returning to in-person instruction. This follows the pattern of coordinated efforts by teachers unions nationwide to keep public schools closed.
Most recently, the Wake County arm of the NCAE was instrumental in the decision by the Wake County schools board of education to keep students in Plan C, full remote instruction, until at least mid-February.
The NCAE was also vocal in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district, where the board also recently decided students will remain in remote instruction. It should come as no surprise that Durham Public Schools, where the NCAE has a large presence, announced it will remain in remote instruction through the end of the 2020-21 school year.
Wake County and Charlotte-Mecklenburg are the two largest districts in the state with around 162,000 and 147,000 students respectively. Excluding Pre-K, Durham has roughly 31,577; 74% of which are Black and Latino.
The letter, signed by NCAE President Tamika Walker Kelly, claims that the NCAE has “maintained from the start of this pandemic that we are eager to reopen schools when it can be done safely.”
This statement is in conflict with the actions of the NCAE and its Racial and Social Justice Caucus, Organize2020, which throughout 2020 held several remote meetings to “use their power” to keep schools closed. They also organized protests in various districts opposing the reopening of schools for in-person instruction, demands for more money, as well as a “bill of rights” for reopening schools.
The NCAE’s letter points to rising community spread and to another letter sent to Cooper by the North Carolina Nurses Association as their basis for the lastest push. In particular, the letter makes the claim that schools can only operate safely if “wider community infection rates are under control.” The letter then asks the governor to enact harsher executive order related restrictions.
“It does not matter how fastidiously educators enforce masking and distancing mandates in the classroom if infection rates are in excess of 10 percent outside the classroom,” Kelly’s letter reads. “Therefore, we request that you take immediate and significant executive action to again curb community spread of this virus until such time that infection rates are again under control.”
Kelly’s community spread concerns are not supported by “the science and research,” nor by N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) officials.
NCDHHS state health director and chief medical officer Dr. Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson has stated “we are not seeing schools as a big driver of cases.” She also said children “have relatively low rates of infection and are not driving our increases.”
At the most recent January meeting of the State Board of Education, NCDHHS Chief Deputy Secretary Susan Gale-Perry called the rise in positive tests this year a “post-Christmas spike,” but made a point to note the number of clusters in K-12 schools was “relatively low.”
Additionally, three recent studies showing little to no transmission from child to adult in education settings where children have returned for in-person instruction.
One of those three studies was conducted here in North Carolina last fall by Duke University, the ABC Collaborative, and partner researchers. The study found “No instances of child-to adult transmission of SARS-CoV-2 were reported within schools,” and found that “within-school infections were extremely rare.”
Read the full letter: