The Board of Education of the Wilkes County Administrative Unit conducted a called meeting on March 17, 2021 at 5:00 p.m. at 613 Cherry Street, North Wilkesboro, North Carolina 28659. The purpose of this called meeting was for approval of Wilkes County Schools Return to Plan A for students in grades 6-12.
Present for the meeting were Chairman Mr. Randall “Rudy” Holbrook, Vice-Chairman Mrs. Sharron Huffman, Board Members Mr. Kirk Walker, Mrs. Joan Caudill, and Mr. Hardin Kennedy, III. In addition, attending were Superintendent Mr. D. Mark Byrd, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Westley Wood, Chief Academic Officer Dr. Donna Cotton, Chief Technology Officer Mrs. Julie Triplett, Chief Finance Officer Mr. Seth Prevette, Director of Transportation Mr. Eric Barker, Director of Exceptional Children Mrs. Jennifer Blankenship, Director of Testing and Accountability Mr. Jeffrey Johnson, and Executive Administrative Assistant Mrs. Carolyn Triplett.
Chairman Mr. Rudy Holbrook led the Invocation.
Chairman Mr. Rudy Holbrook called the meeting to order.
On a motion by Mr. Kennedy, seconded by Mrs. Huffman and duly carried, the agenda was approved.
Chairman Mr. Randall “Rudy” Holbrook recognized Superintendent Mr. Mark Byrd for the Devotion and Pledge of Allegiance. Mr. Byrd thanked everyone for being able to attend tonight’s board meeting on such short notice. There was some miscommunication with the media about what day this meeting was to be held, and I hope everyone knows us well enough to know that was simply human error and never an intention to hide anything. Mr. Byrd commented that he did not know if any of you have made a mistake during this pandemic, but if you have not he has made enough for all of us. Mr. Byrd stated, “I think this is a great example of why we need to show grace to others, and if I am ever asked what advice I would give to anyone about dealing with a pandemic, showing grace to everyone will be very high on that list. I know the reason for tonight’s meeting is one that we have put lots of thought into, and one that none of us takes lightly. I have always been taught that when you are faced with a difficult decision, you should focus on what you believe in the most. I do think that our focus will be, as always, on what is best for our students, as without students we do not need a Superintendent or a school board. I am just glad to be at a point where we are discussing opening schools and not closing them. I hope that every student, teacher, and staff member knows that, as always, his or her safety will remain our top priority. Therefore, as we move forward with a difficult decision, I hope it is a time of excitement as well, as we have a chance to have all of our kids back in school very shortly for the first time in over 375 days."
Chairman Mr. Randall “Rudy” Holbrook asked if anyone had signed up for Public Comments. No one had signed up.
Mr. Byrd presented the following information to all who were present. On Saturday, March 14, 2020, Governor Roy Cooper closed Public Schools in NC due to COVID-19. Wilkes County Schools started the 2020-2021 school year under Remote Learning, or Plan C for the return to school for a period of 3 weeks. On September 8, 2020, students returned to school on an A/B calendar, or Plan B for the return to school. October 20, 2020, students in grades K-5 returned to school five days per week, which is considered Plan A for the return to school. Last week, Governor Cooper signed legislation allowing local LEAs to return to school under Plan A for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year. After much thought and deliberation, it is my recommendation that Wilkes County Schools allow students in grades 6-12 to return to school under Plan A effective Wednesday, March 24, 2021. This date allows teachers to use the Remote Learning Day on March 19 to prepare classrooms. With an A day on Monday and a B day on Tuesday, teachers can review new guidelines with smaller groups of students. Masks will still be required, as will social distancing to the greatest extent possible. All guidelines in the updated "Lighting our Way Forward" document will be followed. Those students who do not feel comfortable returning still have the option of remaining under Plan C for the remainder of the school year.
On a motion by Mr. Kennedy, seconded by Mrs. Caudill and duly carried, the Wilkes County Schools Return to Plan A was approved as presented. The vote was 4-1 with Mrs. Huffman voting against the motion. The return date will be Wednesday, March 24, 2021 for all Wilkes County School students and staff. Mrs. Sharron Huffman stated the concern she had was due to teachers and other staff not being able to obtain the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine until Friday, March 26, 2021. Mrs. Huffman felt that schools needed to open, but later.
The following announcement was made that the next Board Meeting would be held on April 12, 2021.
On a motion by Mr. Kennedy, seconded by Mrs. Huffman and duly carried, there being no further business, the Board adjourned at 5:10 PM.