Board members made the decision after hearing passionate cries from employees and school administrators that shared their concern over the increasing positive COVID-19 cases as well as student grades. Staffing continues to be an issue as the school board system looks to hire more substitute teachers.
COVID-19 cases continue to climb throughout North Carolina and Wake County.
The motion was opposed by board members Roxie Cash and Karen Carter who fought tirelessly to have students and staff back in the classroom. Carter questioned the efficacy of a survey issued to teachers and elementary school principals.
"I ask that moving forward as a system, we proactively seek kind of related to substitute teacher piece that we come to make a decision with all the pieces of information," Carter said.
As board members met at the Cary headquarters, a small group of parents gathered outside the building, one parents' sign reading 'Open our schools!'
A couple of parents have come to @WCPSS while this board meeting is ongoing.— Josh Chapin (@JoshChapinABC11) January 14, 2021
This mom has five children within the public school system and said they are suffering #abc11 #nced pic.twitter.com/MDcTXE3bKu
For reference, high school students have been out of in-person learning for nearly a year mid-February.
The decision comes as the neighboring school system, Durham Public Schools decided to remain online for the rest of the spring semester.
"We're trying to be as responsive as we can to all the needs and pressure points. We know that students need to be in schools. We understand that," Wake County School Board Chairman Keith Sutton told ABC11 in a follow-up interview. "There is fear across the board and It's a difficult place for us to be but we have to make those decisions and that's why we're here."
The next work session discussing the students' return will be on February 9, the earliest students will be able to return to the classroom is February 16.