WCPSS leaders confront COVID complaints, concerns after fiery meeting

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ByJoel Brown via WTVD logo
Thursday, September 9, 2021
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It will likely be at least another two weeks before the Wake County School Board makes a decision on mandatory COVID-19 testing and vaccines.

CARY, N.C. (WTVD) -- It will likely be at least another two weeks before the Wake County School Board makes a decision on mandatory COVID-19 testing and vaccines. Members have a lot of facts and feelings to consider. Board leadership told ABC11 that it was hoping to be past all this.

"We all thought that this would be better. We all thought that this would be over. The Delta variant had different ideas," said school board vice-chair Lindsay Mahaffey.

But of course, the pandemic is not over. And concerns and complaints from parents are hotter than ever.

"It is not your job to protect my child. That's my job. You don't get to do that," one Wake mom told the board at Tuesday night's meeting in the fiery public comment portion.

Mahaffey understood the range of emotions on display.

"I think when we're talking about people's children, everyone has their own mama or papa bear that comes out because deep down, we all want what's best for our kids," Mahaffey said.

On Tuesday night, Mahaffey and the rest of the board blocked a proposal to require masks during recess. The vice-chair told ABC11 that she wants to see more evidence that it helps reduce COVID-19 spread outdoors.

But a proposal to require COVID-19 testing and a vaccine mandate for teachers, support staffers and eligible students is still on the table. Mahaffey suggested that her mind is not yet made up.

"I mean, we make decisions as a board. Certainly, we want to know more about what's involved. We heard a lot of conversation about what kind of staff time is involved. What is the state providing," she said. "Because we really want students to be in class and get face-to-face instruction."

Mahaffey addressed one standout moment from the meeting when a Wake kindergarten teacher told the board she wants to stay unvaccinated.

READ MORE: Wake parents call for more equitable COVID rules, funding at schools

"It is a very personal decision," Jasmine Raeford said, "I've prayed and done my own research: my body, my choice. I choose not to."

Mahaffey knows Raeford well.

"I have a personal connection with Miss Raeford. She was my oldest child's kindergarten teacher," Mahaffey said. "So I have great respect for her as a person as an educator. And I think we have decisions to make as a board. And I think we have public comments so that people can tell their elected representatives how they feel what's on their minds."

The strain of school staffing shortages is also a major focus. This latest parent newsletter from the principal at Carpenter Elementary in Cary paints a grim picture of the problem. One Carpenter Elementary mom told ABC11 that the school's principal and assistant principal are having to teach classes because there's so many vacancies.

Mahaffey said it's the district's biggest concern right now -- affecting students and staff. She said the district is trying its best to attract more teachers and support staffers.