The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday April 13th

COVID-19 and racial inequity discussed during Monday's OCS Board meeting

Orange County Board of Education member Sarah Smylie speaks at a joint school boards meeting between Orange County Public Schools, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and the Board of County Commissioners. The meeting took place on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020 at the Whitted Building in Hillsborough, N.C.
Buy Photos Orange County Board of Education member Sarah Smylie speaks at a joint school boards meeting between Orange County Public Schools, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and the Board of County Commissioners. The meeting took place on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020 at the Whitted Building in Hillsborough, N.C.

The Orange County Schools Board of Education passed a racial equity resolution and discussed possible plans to shift to hybrid learning for the second nine weeks of the school year in a Monday meeting. 

COVID-19 updates

The Board spent the majority of the meeting presenting metrics and updates about COVID-19 within the school district. This also included a presentation from a representative from the Orange County Health Department. 

Rebecca Crawford,  the finance and administrative operations director for the Orange County Health Department, gave updates on the progress the county has made in handling the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In July, the Board voted for the district to start the first nine weeks of school with remote education

Crawford reported that Orange County has made progress on all four metrics used to determine if OCS can shift to hybrid learning. 

Sara Pitts, director of environmental health and safety at Orange County Schools, explained how schools would operate if they were to shift to hybrid learning. She provided insight into how classrooms would look in a hybrid environment. 

"Our classrooms will be reduced to 50 percent capacity," Pitts said. 

She also said sharing of supplies will be minimized to protect everyone from cross contamination. Additionally, Pitts said masks will be worn by all students and staff.

Pitts also said teachers and other staff have already received training on how to keep students and themselves safe. 

The Board will be presented with a recommendation by the health department on whether to proceed with a shift to hybrid learning on Sept. 28. 

Equity resolution

The Board also passed an equity resolution that aims to acknowledge and eliminate racial intolerance and inequities within Orange County Schools. The Board plans to take measures including creating a yearly equity plan, reviewing building names and creating a task force to access school discipline, according to the resolution.

The resolution also states that Juneteenth be declared a paid holiday and that the Board affirm and recognize the phrase “Black Lives Matter” as a nonpartisan statement. 

“We acknowledge that students, families, and staff have not always felt safe speaking out about race-related issues and racially charged incidents in OCS,” Board Vice Chairperson Brenda Stephens read from the resolution. 

The Board supported the bill and acknowledged the students’ experiences with racism in the county. Board member Carrie Doyle recounted stories of students advocating for the Black Lives Matter movement being met with “Confederate flaggers."

Board member Will Atherton said he wished more time was spent on the resolution, so there could have been a meaningful conversation with students and the community. Chairperson Hillary MacKenzie said she had sent the resolution to board members 10 days prior. 

Some members said the resolution needed to go further, stressing the importance of accountability and consistent action. 

Doyle proposed a motion to expand step three of the equity plan, suggesting more action steps to hold the Board accountable. Board member Bonnie Hauser suggested regular measures of progress. 

Although some Board members feel there is more work to be done, they said they are optimistic.

"I believe this is what a government should do," Stephens said.

 @DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com 

@HayleyRosewall | @HeedenTaylor

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