Twin Rivers YMCA is offering remote learning camps at five Craven County school sites to assist families challenged by the district’s Plan C-remote learning system during the first 9 weeks of the new school year due to COVID-19.

During the Aug. 18, 2020 presentation to the Board of Education, some members were not present and action was tabled until all could be present for the discussion. No action was taken by the Board of Education at the Board of Education Work Session or the Board of Education meeting on Aug. 20, 2020.

“Our district leadership and staff are charged by the state through our roadmap to reopening plan to identify multiple strategies and partners to support our students (and their families) who not only do not have Internet access, but do not have the childcare support at home to be able to help them through virtual learning,” the school district announced in a statement released Tuesday, Aug. 25.

This proposal came from an option provided to school systems by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) and the Department of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE). There are multiple options district leadership is considering to support students in camps, family and community learning pods, and others. This particular partnership would have the chance to serve students in all attendance areas.

The direction from NCDHHS was that school districts were to partner with, “…Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs, parks and recreation departments, and other nonprofits.”

“The speculation related to this opportunity to support our students and their families is unfortunate,” the district said in its statement. “The school system, as advised in a letter from NCDHHS, was working to find options that would both respect the will of our Board of Education to remain on Plan C and also provide one of several other ways that we can support our community as they attempt to support our students in virtual learning.”

The only support Craven County Schools would have provided was in providing space. The YMCA would be running the program, not Craven
County Schools, with a fee aligned with the program the YMCA is currently offering at their own facility with programming they have been offering to the community for years.

The $125 fee would cover the expense of YMCA staff working this program for families from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. This is 52.5 hours per week.

In providing this service, the YMCA also supports families with 25 percent and 50 percent tuition scholarships for those in need. This camp would be offered in a remote location at the designated school site with a maximum capacity of 30 students.

Students and the YMCA staff would have to follow all of the health and safety protocols already being implemented at each school campus pursuant to the NCStrongSchoolsNC Toolkit.

“Students participating would be trained and expected to follow all of the daily screening practices which would be used when we are able to return to our school buildings,” the district announced. “The multiple negative effects this pandemic has on our students is a source of great concern for the entire Craven County Schools administration and staff.

“We are painfully aware of what our students are missing by not having in-person instruction with our talented teachers, and there is nothing we want more than to return to school when it is safe for all of students and staff. The public school system is not a public health entity. As a
result, the decisions we have had to make during the pandemic are not only out of the realm of customary experience but also outside of our training.

“Unfortunately, our Board of Education, under the advice of our administration, is working to use all of the information and data available to us to make the very best decisions as we make the health of our students and staff our number one priority. There are no simple answers, and we
are doing the very best we can for our students, families, and community. We will continue to work with our community partners to seek opportunities to assist our families. Thank you again for your support during these challenging times.”

The Craven County Board of Commissioners called for a joint meeting between it and the Board of Education to discuss the nine-week delay in resuming in-person classes. Many commissioners have expressed opposition to the delay, despite the county now experiencing the highest number of active COVID-19 cases ever recorded, and UNC-Chapel Hill and East Carolina University canceling in-person classes following outbreaks on those campuses.

County Board Chairman Tom Mark compared school faculty who fear having open classes to other county workers who have gone back to work, although there does seem to be a difference between an office or a motor pool, and a classroom full of children.

County commissioners who caught wind of the YMCA offer have criticized it for its expense, and saying the school district is pushing its responsibilities off on third parties.

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