North Carolina teachers tell leaders: ‘Our schools, our safety, our say'

Updated: Jul. 10, 2020 at 6:39 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) is ready for teachers’ voices to be heard as politicians come up with plans to reopen schools.

The organization will hold a call Wednesday night called “SOS: Our Schools, Our Safety, Our Say.”

It’s for teachers and public school supporters.

Leaders say the call is needed.

“We have 115 school districts,” Wake County NCAE President Kristin Beller said. “There’s a wide variety of ways that educators are involved or not involved in the districts reopening plans.”

Beller said teachers have been meeting on Wednesdays to come up with a strategy.

As schools are currently scheduled to reopen on August 17, teachers say they need to make sure leaders know how they feel sooner rather than later.

The call will include teachers from all over the state. This will be an opportunity for teachers to connect, hear other teachers’ stories about how their district is reopening and walk away with an assignment.

“They can find out what it is they need to do in their own area,” Beller said. “Organize to be able to participate in supporting the whole state to get resources and funding that we need.”

North Carolina state lawmakers have allocated about $500 million for school districts to fight COVID-19 next school year.

Teachers worry if that is enough, and they remind lawmakers that is only one-time funding.

They wonder what if COVID-19 will be around next school year - where will the money come from to continue to fight the disease? Teachers say for them to be comfortable to return and remain in the classrooms - this has to happen.

“If the General Assembly insists that we are in buildings learning and working with our students,” Beller said. “They need to fund the safety requirements that are necessary to allow us to do that.”

While Beller gets prepared for the call on Wednesday, Charlotte Mecklenburg School District (CMS) is sending out surveys to teachers about their intentions for the next school year.

CMS wants to know if teachers will return, if they won’t return or if they want to work remotely.

The answers will help the district plan for the next school year.

Jennifer Bourne, a CMS teacher who filled out the survey, said she wants the school district to hear what the teachers have to say.

“I feel like teachers should be the prevailing voice,” Bourne said. “In the process of what schools will look like in terms of family school safety.”

Bourne is not only a teacher, but also a parent, a wife, and cares for her parents.

She wants to make sure the decision that is made not only keeps her family safe but her students’ families safe as well.

“I’ve heard Plans A, B, and C,” Bourne said. " I guess I like plan D - none of the above.”

Beller said Wednesday night’s phone call is not about teachers not wanting to come back to school but it’s more about everybody working together to come up with the right plan.

“I want us to be in schools learning under safe conditions,” Beller said. “And if that doesn’t happen that then we shouldn’t be in schools.”

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