BRUNSWICK COUNTY SCHOOLS — Brunswick County Schools’ top nurse put it bluntly Wednesday morning: “Covid hell has broken out.”
Due to a surge in cases and a teacher shortage, the board of education made the decision Wednesday morning to turn Thursday and Friday into staff workdays. Employees may only work from home if they are already approved to do so or are quarantining.
Students will return to school Tuesday, after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, with a mask mandate in place.
“It is awful. It is insane in these schools. The nurses are exhausted,” nurse supervisor Wanda Willis said.
Willis indicated the Covid-19 dashboard is an underrepresentation of the true number of cases. She said by the time contacts are traced, their quarantine periods are over.
Chair Steven Barger called the emergency meeting Tuesday night to discuss the staffing deficiencies across multiple campuses. He iterated the boards’ commitment to continuing in-person schooling. More than 1,600 viewers tuned into the live-streamed meeting.
“I think that we need to do everything we can to avoid going back to a virtual school concept because we’re still working on digging ourselves out of that hole that we created a year and a half ago,” Berger said.
As of Wednesday morning, the school district was reporting 160 absences among teachers and special education teaching assistants. Only about 40% of positions were filled, and principals are supervising classes.
Ordinarily, BCS would be able to cover between 65% and 70% of vacancies, according to Assistant Superintendent Molly White.
The two workdays combined with the approaching three-day weekend means students will be out of school for five days total. That is the current recommended quarantine period for people exposed to Covid-19 in a maskless setting.
Per the state’s Strong Schools Toolkit, students can stay in school after exposure to Covid-19 if masks are worn.
Berger said the toolkit “pigeonholes” the board into enforcing masks to avoid sending large numbers of staff and students home.
The public can watch the recorded meeting here.
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