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'If you're not going to do it, just say you're not going to do it' | Two Triad school districts delay reentry

Guilford County middle and high schoolers will not return to the classroom for at least three more weeks. Another district delayed K-12 return until March.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Two of the Triad's largest school districts are delaying reentry plans.

Guilford County Schools middle and high schoolers will not return to the classroom for at least three more weeks.

Meanwhile, K-12 students in the Alamance-Burlington School System are not going back until March at the earliest.

Some Guilford County Schools parents were frustrated by the delay. Kim Bartlett said it feels like the district is putting off the inevitable--that older students may not return to the classroom this year.

"Think about these kids that are at home that really need, they need to be with their friends. If you're not going to do it, just say you're not going to do it but stop giving them false hope," Bartlett said.

Bartlett is also a Southern Guilford High School counselor and a teacher's wife. She has two children, a high school senior and a sixth-grader, who are still waiting to find out if they'll go back to the classroom this school year.

Other parents think the district made the right call. Tara Rusiewicz was set to send her middle-schooler back to class before one of her elementary-age children needed to be quarantined after a classroom exposure.

"I was a big supporter of getting the kids back in school, but after our experience, I don't think the district is ready," Rusiewicz said.

The Guilford County Board of Education decided in a split vote to wait for a report on coronavirus testing and vaccinations before deciding whether or not to return students.

Vaccinations also factored into Alamance-Burlington School System's decision to return. Superintendent Dr. Bruce Benson was going to recommend a February return to the classroom before learning that teachers could be vaccinated under Phase 1b of the state's distribution plan.

He recommended waiting until March on Tuesday.

"While we can't guarantee that teachers will have access to a vaccine prior to a delayed start, it increases the likelihood that they may have the vaccine," Benson said.

People in both districts are concerned about learning loss as students remain outside of the classroom.

"It's really, really hard to keep him motivated, to keep any of them motivated," Bartlett said.

Bartlett has seen the downside of remote learning in her son and daughter.

"We're seeing a far higher percentage of, particularly our middle school students, failing one or more courses at this point as compared to a year ago," Benson said.

Benson hopes some Alamance-Burlington teachers may be able to get vaccinated before beginning K-12 reentry in March.

He said coming back then would still give students a full grading period in the classroom, which he believes could make a difference in making sure students pass their classes.

As remote learning continues, Guilford County Schools plans to add 15 more learning hubs to support high school students who are at risk for not graduating.

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