Wake County parents argue over school district's COVID-19 protocols in Tuesday meeting

Joel Brown Image
Wednesday, September 8, 2021
WCPSS board, parents talk masks, COVID protocols in Tuesday meeting
"It is not your job to protect my child," one mother told the board before smearing her face covering over the podium to illustrate what she perceives as the ineffectiveness of the district's mask rules

WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Wake County school board spent Tuesday evening discussing the district's COVID-19 protocols.

The meeting began with a work session with topics such as the COVID-19 dashboard and Delta variant.

Last week, the district required students involved in athletics, marching band and other student groups to start masking up, even outdoors, unless they are directly participating in games, practices and performances.

The Wake County school board is meeting Tuesday to discuss COVID-19 protocols, including mask-wearing outdoors.

The district is considering making all students mask up outdoors, including recess.

Some parents spoke to ABC11, with some thinking that it is a step too far and others supporting the decision.

"I think protecting their health is the most important thing that can be done right now. I mean, yes it is hot. Is it an inconvenience but it can be done. I mean, my kids wear masks outside all the time," said Adriana de Souza e Silva, a Wake County parent.

Brian Groesser has three kids who go to Wake County schools. His son is trying out for his middle school football team.

"I don't really see the point of a football athlete, on a Friday night where it's 90 degrees outside, wearing a mask. It just doesn't make sense, especially when the next day you see NC State playing without masks in a stadium of 80,000 people," Groesser said.

During the meeting, Virtual Academy was discussed. The board said there are currently 10, 431 students enrolled, but there is a 4.5% vacancy rate in staffing.

In its presentation, the board called possible expansion "problematic." The ability to hire or contract additional staff to expand capacity is not feasible, according to the board. Contracting an online vendor is also likely not feasible.

The ongoing considerations include overenrolling courses, master schedule changes and concurrent teaching.

It wasn't long after the gavel went down things got heated at the meeting.

"It is not your job to protect my child! That's my job! You don't get to do that," one mother told the board. She then wet her face covering and smeared the mask all over the podium to illustrate what she perceives as the ineffectiveness of the district's mask rules in schools.

Board chair, Keith Sutton, silent and stone-faced, walked to the podium afterwards to scrub the lectern clean with disinfectant wipes.

Many of the Wake parents who want the district to beef up COVID rules with more masking, more outdoor lunch options and better air filtration -- submitted their comments online. John Scarborough came in person.

"I strongly feel that the board is not doing enough to protect my child," Scarborough said.

School district staff presented the latest metrics from the district that showed fewer than one percent of Wake's 160,000 students are currently quarantined for COVID. But, board member, Dr. Jim Martin urged against focusing on percentages.

"What CDC says is if you have more than a hundred cases per 100,000 population, that is considered high-transmission," Martin said. "What's happening at Wake public schools is the highest number of cases we've ever had."

The emotional meeting now leads to some sobering deliberations for the school board. One of the big decisions is whether to mandate vaccinations for teachers, staff and some students.

No decisions were made Tuesday night. The board is now expected to think over what they heard from parents and staff and return for a vote at its next meeting in two weeks.