Make CMS Have Safer COVID Protocols or Go Online
Make CMS Have Safer COVID Protocols or Go Online
Why this petition matters
On January 3rd, Mecklenburg County reported 7,035 new COVID cases, an all time high. This does not account for all the people who are asymptomatic, chose not to get tests, took at home tests, and could not access tests. Although vaccines prevent extreme health problems from COVID, only about 75% of adults in North Carolina are vaccinated, leaving the statistics for children even lower. Even assuming 75% of students are vaccinated, that still leaves more new cases in unvaccinated people than ever before. North Carolina currently has a 31% positivity rate for COVID, which clearly warrants some form of online option, or at the very least more concern for students and staff.
The new Omicron variant, though less deadly, is much more contagious than any previous COVID variant. However, CMS schools, as well as every school district in North Carolina, remain completely open. In fact, we keep lowering COVID related restrictions, such as the amount of time an exposed or COVID positive person must quarantine. We cannot keep lifting restrictions and expecting the problem to disappear on its own. Teachers, as well as other staff members such as bus drivers are quarantining and testing positive at incredibly high rates. If we keep going this way, there will be next to no teachers left to run schools, and the remaining teachers will be put under intense stress. As of right now, 600 CMS teachers have tested positive, as well as 1,200 students. In coming weeks, this number will increase exponentially. Personally, I do not feel safe going to school, and I know I'm not the only one.
Like any student, I do not want to go online. It makes learning incredibly difficult and eliminates imperative social interaction for students. However, now is a more necessary time than any. COVID testing lines leave people stuck for hours, hospitals are full and overcrowded, and teachers are being forced to do jobs they've never had to before. Providing the option for online school as CMS did last year will not only lower cases, but it will keep quarantined students and students who have tested positive for COVID from getting behind. I personally know several students who struggled due to missed time from catching COVID-19. Allowing them the option of attending school online could keep our grades and test scores up. Even going online for as little as a week or two could help stagger COVID cases. Many districts across the country have delayed return from winter break for this very reason, and it would do nothing but help for CMS.
As per a North Carolina law, schools cannot go fully online for long periods of time, however specific schools can go online certain days. This law, for obvious reasons, is ridiculous. Not all North Carolina counties are created equal in terms of positivity rates; Mecklenburg County specifically is incredibly at risk because of the population density. Schools are packing up to 4,000 kids in one building, and with a 31% positivity rate, this is extremely dangerous. Although most students (aside from those with preexisting conditions) are not at risk for COVID complications, many live with older family members or other at risk people, not to mention staff with preexisting conditions. With hospitals already crowded, this is devastating. We cannot afford to wait until things are already at their worst; we have to act now and prevent as many deaths, hospitalizations, and cases as we possibly can.
Despite my personal objection to North Carolina's online school law, there are ways to improve the devastating rates of COVID in our school district. Firstly, bringing back symptoms screenings before students walk into the door could prevent possibly ill students from attending school. Secondly, changing our current plans for how many hours students have to be in school and having more leeway for absences could prevent asymptomatic students, students who have been exposed, and students who show symptoms from coming to school. Third, setting up weekly or frequent testing could keep COVID-19 out of our schools. Mecklenburg County recently released free at home COVID tests, which could be essential to lowering cases in our schools. Implementing new COVID related laws and protections could save lives of students, teachers and staff, parents, and other guardians. Offering N95 masks could also prevent COVID from spreading.
I would like to thank the students in California who inspired me to write this petition. I also would like to apologize sincerely for any stress this petition may cause on CMS staff members and board, however this issue cannot be unnoticed and uncared for. For the safety and wellbeing of the community, please implement stricter COVID protocols, provide students and staff with N95 masks, and give the option for online learning.