Elon polls shows Gaston parents don't want children to go to
Published August 6, 2020
A recent poll conducted and published by Gaston County’s chapter of the North Carolina Association of Educators shows that a majority of parents, teachers, and other community members prefer public school students not return to their classrooms on Aug. 17.
Instead, the poll results say the county should pursue an all-remote learning strategy until the threat from COVID-19 has lessened.
Gaston County Schools partly based its recommendation to return to school under a blended learning model made up of in-person and remote days on a poll conducted by Elon University, which asked how North Carolina public schools should reopen for the fall semester.
In the Elon poll, 38 percent of participants preferred a part-time, or blended learning plan, 34 percent said they wanted a full-time return to school and 29 percent wanted a full-time remote plan.
Superintendent Jeff Booker presented that poll to school board members on July 6.
However, Gaston County NCAE’s survey, completed by 1,794 participants, drastically differs from the statewide poll.
The poll’s participants included 945 parents, 908 teachers, and 298 community members.
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According to NCAE’s local poll, 66.8 percent of participants would rather begin the school year remotely rather than a mixture, which would have students attending school two days a week and learning remotely the other three days.
Gaston County’s COVID-19 positivity rate reached as high as 13.38% from July 5 to 11, which is more than double the CDC’s preferred school reopening rate of 5%.
Three-fourths of participants agreed they aren’t comfortable reopening school buildings under a 13% positivity rate.
In a question posed to school employees, 73% of participants said they plan to return to their school on Aug. 17 – the first day of school – but 80% said they wouldn’t feel confident or safe returning to in-person instruction on Aug. 17.
Return when it’s safer
The poll was also shared directly with members of the Gaston County Board of Education.
Dot Guthrie, the only board member to vote no to Gaston County Schools’ blended learning proposal, said the NCAE poll, as well as the latest Gaston County COVID-19 data, frighten her.
COVID-19 cases sat at 3,083 Tuesday afternoon, 328 of which are children under 18 years old.
“I was just amazed to see the number of folks who completed the survey for NCAE who felt like I have felt,” said Guthrie, who represents the Gastonia Township on the board alongside Lee Dedmon.
“I know how important it is for children to have social and emotional skills and interactions with others. However, this is one time that I’ve strongly felt like if we can just give our community a little bit more time to heal and look at the percentage of COVID-19 decreasing, then we’re all going to greatly benefit from waiting,” Guthrie continued.
Guthrie said although she doesn’t agree with the blended learning schedule, she’s grateful to Booker and his administrative team for their diligence.
Gaston County board of Education will hold a work session on Wednesday at 3 p.m. to talk about updates regarding returning to school.
Guthrie said she wants to hear an update on Gaston County Schools’ back-to-school plan before discussing switching to a remote learning model.
Pam Miller, president of Gaston County NCAE and a first grade teacher at Page Primary School, believes based on the poll, the safest option is to switch to all remote learning across Gaston County Schools.Not only is it the safest option, she said, but Miller also believes teachers have the tools and programs to make remote learning work.
“The instructional technology staff has done an excellent job of training, making things simple for recording the Zoom meetings or the Google meetings, so that [students] can go back and watch it as much as [they] need to,” Miller said.
“We can lift each other (teachers) up, we can encourage each other, we can share materials and if one person is really good at developing math lessons online, then that person can share what they’re doing. With it being digital, we don’t have to share it (just) within our school. We can share across the county.”
In recent weeks, some North Carolina school districts have had second thoughts on reopening schools under a plan of in-school learning and remote.
Last week, nearby Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools switched from a blended model to all-remote learning based on recent COVID-19 data.