Following the return of kindergarteners and first graders to Orange County Schools classrooms last month, community members shared concerns about both virtual and in-person learning at a Monday Orange County Schools Board of Education meeting.
At the meeting, many parents addressed delays in the restart of in-person instruction, noting the CDC’s guidance on how to proceed with a safe reopening of schools. Some criticized the county’s decision to allow school sports, even though the risk of transmission rates are higher than that of learning in a classroom. Students in all other grades will return to in-person learning in April.
Hilary Crittenden, the mother of two Orange County Schools students, said she's concerned about the effects of virtual learning on students in the district, including increased mental illness, a widening achievement gap and rising food security.
At the meeting, she said she and other parents are losing faith in the Board.
"We no longer know what to tell our kids," she said. "We're running out of ways to keep them motivated and engaged."
Other parents said they understand the difficult position that the Board is in.
“I sincerely thank the board members that supported the efforts to allow K through one (students) back into the buildings,” parent Jessica Farrell said.
Board Chairperson Hillary MacKenzie said she is worried about the possibility of all students returning at once. She said the bulk of air purifiers that the county ordered for the schools will not arrive until the end of February, which increases her concerns for in-person classes.
The Board also discussed in-person instruction options for students in transition years, such as sixth and ninth grade. Mackenzie said the Board will call another meeting in the near future to discuss a staggered return of students to school.