Dare Board of Ed changes date of special meeting

By on September 9, 2020

Superintendent Farrelly cautioned that opening classrooms in September would be a daunting task.. (File photo)

Update: In order to allow for more stakeholders to listen to the live special called meeting, the Board of Education is moving the reopening of schools’ special called meeting to Thursday, October 1 at 5:00 pm. The meeting can be heard live on Youtube via a link on our website. You will also be able to view the presentation used during the meeting.

The Dare County Board of Education will hold a special meeting on Oct. 2 to determine how to move forward with school operations after the first nine weeks of the 2020-2021 school year, which began on Aug. 17 with remote learning for all students due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Board Chair Bea Basnight made the recommendation at the board’s Sept. 8 meeting, noting that the October meeting will be dedicated to discussing possibilities of returning to in-person instruction or a hybrid model following the conclusion of the Oct. 28 grading period, giving staff time to “make arrangements for whatever plan we want to take.”

After agreeing to the early October meeting, Board Member Harvey Hess made a motion later in the meeting calling for all K-5 students, as well as those students in the Exceptional Children’s (EC) program, to return to in-school instruction five days a week beginning on Sept. 28. The motion, which was seconded by Joe Tauber, failed, with the remaining five board members voting against it.

That was the same 5-2 margin that prevailed on July 20 when the board opted to open the school year with remote learning for every student, with Hess and Tauber in the minority.

As part of Hess’s Sept. 8 motion, consideration would have been given to the return of 6-12 grade students at the next board meeting following the Sept. 28 start date for the younger cohort. “I think we can move faster on getting our kids back in school,” asserted Hess on Sept. 8, suggesting his position aligns with that of the Centers for Disease Control and the National Academy of Sciences. “We’ve got three weeks from now to get school in motion and I think that’s more than sufficient time.”

Other board members, while acknowledging that face-to-face instruction is better than remote learning, argued that rushing to open school buildings prematurely would not be prudent. Referring to Hess’s suggested Sept. 28 opening, Board Member David Twiddy said, “That’s four days before the meeting we have [scheduled] to talk about a better plan than just coming up tonight and saying we are going to go with school opening.”

For her part, board member Mary Ellon Ballance asserted, “Three weeks seems like a long time, but there are a lot of components to make sure that comes off unhinged.”

In response to questions by board members, Dare County Schools Superintendent John Farrelly said the July directive from the board was for remote learning through Oct. 23, which was what the district administration has planned for. The difficulty with the Sept. 28 opening date for K-5 and EC students, he added, would include staffing and transportation issues that would have to be resolved in a short amount of time.

“If we were to have all K-5 students and children in EC program being served five days a week, then we would be in elementary, middle and high school buildings and moving kids out of their attendance zone in order to serve them effectively,” Farrelly said during the meeting. “And it’s still not clear to me the concept [in Hess’s motion] of trying to plan for 6-12, what that actually looks like, so it is hard to speak to.”

Prior to the vote, Hess stated that, “I believe we can do this, I believe we owe it to the students of Dare County …I know everyone here wants the best for our students and our community, but I think we can move faster than this.”

In response, Chair Basnight noted, “I think you are right, Mr. Hess, in that everyone here wants what is best for our children. I think as a teacher, and as parents and grandparents here, we all know in-person learning is best. But we want to do it in the right way, the safe way and in a way that is planned so that we have success.”


  • 60s Suzanne

    Me. Hess – your intentions are good as we all want to see kids back in school and life back to normal.
    But NOT SO FAST!!! We need more information on children catching the virus and then spreading it. At first they did not think kids were vulnerable to Covid and could not spread it. They have now learned 10 year olds can spread the virus like an adult and almost 20,000 children have had Covid. With deaths.
    And you are placing a lot of responsibility for the spread of Covid on the kids. Do you really think 1st and 2nd graders can wear a mask (a new toy!) and social distance? Try keeping a class of small children from running for the playground at break and staying 6 feet apart.
    Covid is worse now in the United States than it ever has been with flare ups everywhere, and many surges are expected from Labor Day events. These surges will come right when you propose the students start school in person 5 days a week.
    I taught school for 30 years and loved every minute of it. I cannot imagine what it must be like to only be able to teach over a computer, knowing many students might have problems.
    As much as we would like to get things back to normal as fast as possible for the kids we must NOT forget that we are in a once in a lifetime deadly pandemic. Things do not proceed as normal during a pandemic and we need to accept that.
    It is good to have positive goals but let’s also keep them realistic.

    Wednesday, Sep 9 @ 1:31 pm
  • Dethrol

    60s Suzanne
    Statistics do not lie. But, you must use actual statistics, and a statistic is not something you pull out of thin air. The CDC says 294,541 children 5-17 years of age have contracted the virus or about 6.5% of all positive cases. Fatalities for this age group are 50 or .1% (1/10th of one percent of the total number of fatalities). However, since there are about 49,000,000 children in this age group in the USA, 50 fatalities works out to be .0001% of the actual population. That’s 1/10,000th of one percent…. The facts are that school-age children contract the virus at much, much lower rates than other age groups and suffer serious complications or death in a minuscule percentage of these cases. Meanwhile, thousands of school-age children commit suicide, die from drug overdoses, or suffer catastrophic abuse, facts that will only be exacerbated by continued exclusion from school, social interaction, and normal human contact.

    Wednesday, Sep 9 @ 11:29 pm