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Up Front Examines the 'Effects of Plan C' with members of Cabarrus School Board

Aug 03, 2020 04:07PM ● By Jason Huddle

Episode 69: The Effects of Plan C

This week, three members of the Cabarrus Board of Education, Carolyn Carpenter, Holly Grimsley and David Harrison, about the reasons  behind this decision to move from Plan B to C for our students and what it means for our students, parents and teachers.

Jason Huddle  00:00

Last week, the Cabarrus County Board of Education voted to move from a plan B, where students would attend school on a limited basis to a Plan C, that requires all virtual learning. They may have voted, but they're not all in agreement.


Holly Grimsley  00:14

You know, we had our schedule combined meeting on July 13. And I felt like that was a good compromise that we all agreed upon. Once we make that decision and you feel good about it. It's really hard to change gears and then have to be a part of new information.


David Harrison  00:33

And I can tell you firsthand, that at the meeting on the 13th. We were getting what our plan B looks like. It was not my understanding that we we did not vote to approve anything.


Jason Huddle  00:46

This week, we talked with three members of the Cabarrus County Board of Education about this controversial vote and what it means for our students, no matter what some may be on the outside looking in.


David Harrison  00:58

ec child a exceptional child The services we provide is really, really, really going to be a challenge for us to meet that obligation and that responsibility to these children.


Jason Huddle  01:10

Join us as we delve deep into the ramifications of this decision and what it means for parents, students and our educators. That's coming up right now on Up Front with Cabaarris Magazine, a presentation of CabCo Media Group and sponsored by Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group, Cabarrus Arena and Events Center. Cabarrus Eye Center, Certec Automotive, Concord Downtown Development Corporation, Level Up Realty, New Hope Worship Center and Walk Cabarrus. I'm your host Jason Huddle. Welcome once again to another episode of Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine. Thanks for joining us this week. As you just heard last week, the Cabarrus County Board of Education voted to go from a plan B to a plan C. Plan B meaning we would have limited school attendance by our students Plan C meaning complete virtual learning. Needless to say the entire board of education was not on board, no pun intended with this decision. And many parents were taken by surprise, because they felt like the decision had already been made in the middle of July. And then they vote last week to essentially change their minds. We wanted some answers. We know a lot of you had questions. So we invited four members of the Cabarrus County School Board and three of them were able to attend, one had a schedule conflict, to talk about some very real issues when it comes to virtual learning, I should say all virtual learning for students and what that means what does it mean for educators? What about students with special needs? There are a lot of questions that I have, I know you have, and we're going to ask them today. On Up Front because this interview is going to take so long I'm not even going to do shameless plug this week because we need to go straight into it. So, right after this break, stay tuned. We've got David Harrison, Carolyn Carpenter and Holly Grimsley from the Cabarrus County Board of Education on the line to talk about this controversial vote, next, stick around.


Commercial  03:22



Jason Huddle  05:13

Welcome back to the program. As I mentioned at the top of the show, we are talking today about the vote last week to go from Plan B to the Plan C when it comes to our education for our students this year in Cabarrus County, and I know there are a lot of questions that I've received from listeners and concerned parents. And so I have invited three members, actually for I invited four members, but one had a scheduling conflict. She wanted to be here Cindy Fertenbaugh but I have on the line, David Harrison, Carolyn Carpenter and Holly Grimsley, all members of the Board of Education for Cabarrus County, first of all, to the three of you, thank you so much for your willingness to be on the show today.


Holly Grimsley  05:58

Thank you for having us, Jason. Absolutely.


David Harrison  06:00

Appreciate it.


Carolyn Carpenter  06:02

Thank you so much for the invitation.


Jason Huddle  06:05

So let's just get to it. First of all, I want to let you guys know that I do not at all envy you guys for the decision that you guys have to make. I know it was not an easy one. And that's sure the understatement of the year but here's some things I have to, to know right off the bat, first of all, why the decision to go to plan B? And then within a week and a half, where it plans see what what why the two decisions so quickly together?


Holly Grimsley  06:43

So I would like to take an opportunity to start that discussion and conversation if the other board members are okay with that.


David Harrison  06:50

Go ahead.


Holly Grimsley  06:50

So that was my real and you know, I'm just gonna lay this out there today because, you know, I've gotten a lot of feedback from that meeting and some of the temperament of it. But that was my real frustration. You know, we had our scheduled combined meeting on July the 13th. And I felt like that was a good compromise that we all agreed upon. You know, it gives parents the opportunity to remote learn your children, if you think that's the most appropriate and your schedules and your lifestyle can accommodate that. And it also gave the others that do not the opportunity to get their children back in school. So we had lots of discussion, the same people that we wound up having that call meeting with, were totally on board from the governor to the Cabarrus Health Alliance to Atrium hospital, to the superintendent. Everyone was in agreement that that was where we should start. You know, that was the good plan to give everyone the option. All the websites for the different schools there was a form asking for you to identify which way that you would like to attend. And that all three were listed, remote, completely attend in person, and are you going to enroll your children and the virtual a cademy? I feel like we were at a really good place I left feeling great. You know, none of these are good options for what we're having to deal with. And we all recognize that. But at that point in time with what we had, and the recommendations are the experts, and by the people that deal with it and have to implement those plans, gave him that recommendation. So then I leave to go on vacation with my family after I felt like I had completely taken care of Board of Education decisions that week, without my laptop, unfortunately, from the Board of Education, and then all of a sudden, you know, and I'm not even asked I started getting a few phone calls that we might be having called meeting, you know, just several days after that decision was made, and there were some things that were going to need to be maybe looked at again. And I'm not saying I don't recognize that this is an extremely fluid situation. But it was very frustrating to know that number one, personally for me, as one board member, I was out of town unprepared and having to participate in another special called meeting. And just to kind of put that in perspective, you know, it is very frustrating to not have, you know, all the equipment and the agendas, there was no agenda, you know, out. I was not even told there was going to be a panel there, you know, that there may be someone there from various health lots to be able to participate. But the panel that came on that was only introduced right prior to the meeting started was totally new for me, so I didn't even know that was going to take place. Normally when we have a meeting, we are all prepared. You know, we're we know who's going to be in attendance. We know we've been able to maybe ask questions before or get an idea of what the discussion items are going to be or what you know, there's going to be some level of information that we can be prepared to hear and be able to discuss. That did not happen with that one. And I'm not saying that's anybody's fault, or it was done on purpose. You know, I'm sure you know, Dr. Louder felt like he was doing his best to get, you know, the right people on that meeting to discuss it. But what I am saying is, it totally kind of blindsided me for sure, because of where I was. And that's real frustrating. You know, I want to say that once we make that decision, and you feel good about it, it's really hard to change gears and then have to, you know, be a part of new information. And, you know, we're getting that every day, of course. But you know, it's a step back, it's a step up, you know, we're constantly moving that and I felt like I'm a July 13 meeting, which was only several days after that. I just, I was real confused. It was a level of frustration for me that I have not failed. And this has been and I know for All my fellow board members, I don't care which side of it you're all it is. It is a huge emotional roller coaster for us of having to continuously evaluate these decisions.


Jason Huddle  11:09

Oh, yeah. You said that this is a fluid situation. I completely agree and if you haven't guessed by now, just to clarify, Holly, you voted against moving from B to C. Carolyn and David, you voted for it and I understand your frustration, but I'm trying to get to as to the why maybe David or Carolyn could speak to why this decision why was after this decision had been made? What was the catalyst that decided you know, what we need to think about this again?


Carolyn Carpenter  11:41

I can tell you this is Carolyn Carpenter. And I can tell you firsthand, that at that meeting on the 13th, we were getting what our plan B looks like. It was not my understanding that we we did not vote to approve anything. Go back and look at the minutes. I respect all my board members and what their feelings are. And number one, if you had been following the news, and I know you were out of town Raleigh, but I had been following this very, very closely. The Sunday night before our meeting on Monday, Sunday night on Spectrum news. It came out that North Carolina was a hot county that our numbers had gone up. They showed fine counties that were what they considered hot, hot counties that the numbers were going up.


Jason Huddle  12:42

Was Cabarrus County on it?


Carolyn Carpenter  12:44

Cabarrus County was one of those hot counties that this was, it showed Mecklenburg, Gaston, Cabarrus, Catabwa and Union that was considered a hot county that actually numbers were bad Cabarrus was one of those counties. Also they showed a you know, they showed Concord, Charlotte, Mecklenburg that that we were not just North Carolina being a hot county, but that our county was one of those that was key. That was a very key factor that we were not getting better. We were getting worse.


Jason Huddle  13:30

That's intresting, that's interesting that that would happen, though, because I've been following the Cabarrus Health Alliance. In fact, we had the Cabarrus Health Alliance on a couple of weeks ago, we were talking about Cabarrus County numbers. And if you look at Cabarrus County numbers for the month of July, it's really almost been a flatline that we've had some peaks, but we've had some valleys too. And so the mean it's almost the the curve, as they love to say has been flattened. So it's interesting that we would be on that list of of counties that it was getting worse when the numbers that the CHA is reporting don't reflect that.


Carolyn Carpenter  14:08

Well, that was that was on Monday night and this was on Spectrum news that I heard this about the hot County.


David Harrison  14:16

Carolyn can I ask you just real quick what Monday night are you?


Carolyn Carpenter  14:19

This I mean, this was Sunday night before maybe we had on Thursday. I heard that Sunday night so then that that you saw this on the talking about the red zone location. You saw this in the paper on on the end, the Independent Tribune, but I saw that I heard that on Sunday night before our meeting on Thursday, but that was in our in the news. On Sunday night, I heard about these red countys and it listed those five counties. Then it talked about North Carolina being a red state, not when I say red state, we're talking about the Corona Virus red state, but North Carolina was considered a red state in, and we were red county.


Jason Huddle  15:08

Okay Carolyn let me stop because I've got to throw it to break when we come back. I want to talk about what your feedback what is been from the teachers, the parents, things like that, David, I want to give you a chance to speak as well. So we're gonna throw it to break really quick. We'll be back with the members of the Cabarrus County Board of Education in just a moment. Stay tuned.


Commercial  15:28



Jason Huddle  17:15

Welcome back to the program, having some interesting discussion about the decision to go from plan to B to plan C with our members of the Board of Education. And David, I want to give you a chance to chime in here in that decision to move from B to C to move from a couple of days a week at the school to no days a week at the school and all virtual. What was the input? You guys heard from the teachers? Are they concerned about returning to their classroom? Are they wanting to get back? What were some thoughts there that you heard from from the educators?


David Harrison  17:51

The teachers just in very large portions where are anxious to get back into the classroom but also aware that to do so, would expose them and children and possibly expand the number of cases around the county, either for their own family situation and or from their perspective to carry the corona virus. They were torn kind of, quite frankly, to want to be there with the kids and, and know full well that you know, in person, education is going to be the most effective for them. They want to get back into the right routine for the kids and for their families. And every one of them basically said it breaks their hearts to worry that the likelihood of spreading the virus was going to be such a factor that we keep them from, you know, getting back into the classrooms with the kids after the vote. I think it's very safe to say that Every one of the teachers who spoke up and communicated with us and some who had not before, we're delighted and thrilled that we're taking this approach. The thing that sticks in my mind is that the data is when we make a plan, we assume that all the data and all the inputs and resources are stifled. The governor, you know, keeps changing some of the plans at the state level and pushes that down to the localities. We haven't been able to make a definite plan for the stability of the county because of so much fluid conditions that are determined by the health department, the state mandates, and I think we've made the best decision we could at the moment and we're trying to adjust that decision, I think on a two week or two and a half week cycle as the data comes in. But the data has got to show a trend And I'm very worried that the data will go up and down and up and down. And we won't know what to actually do unless we give it a period of time to get a strong feeling.


Jason Huddle  20:13

So, did logistics come into play at all? I mean, because I was thinking about the plan B and I was thinking about how do you handle busing? How do you handle teaching schedules? You know, what about children with special needs, all these things came into into my mind I'm sure they did in yours. So is this also just a logistical look, it's a lot easier if we just go all virtual.


David Harrison  20:36

So so the, the EC child, the exceptional child services we provide is really, really, really going to be a challenge for us to meet that obligation and responsibility to children. Just in a nutshell, if we have a bus that could fit 40 children but by state mandate, we can only put 20 children on the bus, which have to be cleaned before we put those 20 children on it, then you drop them off at the school, we'd have to clean the bus again in the afternoon to pick those children back on the bus, the children in the schools, that classroom would have to be cleaned the afternoon time of the day when they would leave the schools, the school room would have to be cleaned again, you can see the logistic problem of cycling through that kind of constantly. But that would be what would be required by all the mandates that we're under.


Jason Huddle  21:35

Are you guys concerned at all about students? Just that struggle? I know I have a daughter and she struggled with the virtual Learning last year. Now I understand we were just kind of winging it the rest of the year. Teachers were just trying to figure out what to do. But aren't we concerned about children falling farther behind going strictly virtual. Are we at all concerned about that?


Carolyn Carpenter  22:04

Well, of course, I'm very concerned with it. But I also am concerned with the safety issue here. And I would rather I'm base and I'm sure you are you want your child to be safe. And again, that's where I was coming from, you know, the safety factor there. Thats above all else and that's where I was coming from. I keep hearing over over from parents, that they the the emotional, and the interaction with other children. They feel that that is a very key factor. And as you mentioned, for our special needs children, and again, I've been assured by our superintendent and by our our staff that those needs are going to be met that they've they learned a lot when they started the remote learning. And my really, I am hoping that we will be looking at these numbers and we hope that it will stabilize. Dr. Fauci at the federal level said he is hoping that we're going to see North Carolina stabilize. We did get a report Monday from Dr. Louder, and he said the overall cases today that was Monday show 2218 with 297 new cases, there was no real decrease. There was 682 active cases in Cabarrus County. And that was 212 new active cases this week. That was over a 40% increase. There was 51 hospitalized case that was the highest there being since he did started. And there was a 9.5% positive case. That's almost double what CDC recommends for schools to return. They want it to be 5% and so, you know, that was where we stood Monday. And so again, safety is one of the things I'm sure you want your child to be safe. Is that not true? Jason?


Jason Huddle  24:42

Yeah, absolutely. I want our children to be safe. I and again, like I said, I don't pretend to have all the answers and I don't envy the decision that you guys have had to make. I just I wonder because there's so many moving factors as David pointed out, and you have also said that this is such a fluid situation. The numbers change on a daily basis. And quite frankly, I don't know what numbers to believe anymore. You mentioned 51 hospital hospital cases. But I checked CDC site last week and it said 31, and then on one page and and only 12 on another, so I don't know what to believe. So..


Carolyn Carpenter  25:19

So its the residents we should be concerned about though, isn't it? If it's the residents that are sending our kids to school, the non residents aren't they're going to a different school system. So if its the residents wouldn't that be the one we we're supposed to be concerned with?


Carolyn Carpenter  25:19

One of the one of those things, it's 12. When you see one page 12 is what it is for residents. And that other page is a total of residents and non residents when you see that other page, that is because they are taken ones that are non residents. And that other page is just the people that are residents that considered people that are residents (inaudiable).


David Harrison  26:01

Jason, I totally agree. This is this is what, you know, I was told, you know, I was pushing for hard for information. Thursday night I was, you know, it appeared, I was given our panel a hard time and I really had no intention for that to be taken that way. I really did not. I didn't want anything to be presented as personal. But this is a very serious decision. We get data pushed out to us from all kinds of areas and all kinds of numbers. And you're right, and see, I had the question, and I'm not that definitely the expert in any of this. However, you know, I heard that if that whatever that number is of that COVID unit, you know, we got a little bit of skewed out there with some statements that were made that the hospital was at 96 per percent capacity, the 94% at COVID. You know, if you're listening to that piece of information, you know, it all It sounded like it I'm sure there was no intent there. It's just they're used to distributing those numbers, because that's what they do. But I myself, you know, had felt there was clarification that, that 94% needed to be clarified that it was of that Covid unit, which only houses 30 to 40 beds, then if you take out the non Cabarrus County residents, and you know, you're down to that that point time, it was like 19 or 20. So that's half, you know, I don't know, I need the information to know, is that the reason why our county supposedly is a hotspot, but if you'd had if these people were back in their home counties, and we were literally only looking at Cabarrus County residents that are hospitalized or, you know, would that ratio that 9.5 being reduced, you know, would it look different? You know, I don't know, I don't these formulas that are being used, and, you know, we're where we get sent, yes, no, maybe, you know, there's just a lot of stuff and I was really not trying to give them a hard time. It's just that we have got to have good answers when it is on us to make this decision. You know, the other part of that that you spoke to is? Absolutely do I worry about, you know, number one safety, of course. But number two, the kids that we are losing access to, we know there was not a good job done and not at anybody's fault probably, of what happened with having to do virtual learning. We know number one, that the participation rate was very low. for a lot of reasons, access, you know, people that don't have the ability to do that either. Just lots of factors that..


Jason Huddle  28:32

My daughter was said it was it was hard for her to go onto the group zoom meetings, it was hard for her it was emotionally difficult for her so.


David Harrison  28:42

Right and and with that being said, You're exactly right. That's why, you know, when you, yes, safety is an issue, huge factor here. My grandson, I would never jeopardize him, putting him in a place that I felt was unsafe, you know but I knew I also heard him say, you know, he say, hey Nanna did you realize I've got 24 kids in my class and only four have participated, you know, during this process, four out of 24. You know, we know that we're losing possibly 50% of participation from kids. So remote learning is never going to replace and many have said that face to face. So here's my thought and this is where I want to go with this. You know, if we are saying the answer is closing the schools completely, not giving parents an option, not giving the teachers an option to return. But yet, we're going to be kind of forcing if you will pop up daycares last minute decisions of how they're going to because now parents are here and you know, you've got to come back to work, you know, your job might be in jeopardy, you've got to come back to work. Unemployment may be running out, you know, there's a lot of things that's getting ready to take place that's going to impact households. We represent 34,000 people or kids, you know, there's people out there that can they can deal with that, you know, they're flexible, they they're able to to you know, they have the support structure that they can deal with that. There's a lot that does not, yeah, that's very concerning to me. We had a board meeting, I call board meeting that two board members kept getting kicked off and we couldn't even complete a full board meeting. We had to keep doing that and we're going to make sure that 34,000 households get access and continue to have a you know, a good participation rate, and with a good feedback, that they're getting a somewhat replaced education system. I don't think so.


Jason Huddle  30:26

Holly let me stop you right there because you've actually segwayed into where I wanted to go next, but I've got to toss it the break way over.


Holly Grimsley  30:33



Jason Huddle  30:33

So let me tell you the break and then we'll come back and try to finish up the show and finish up our conversation. Once again talking to David Harrison, Carolyn Carpenter and Holly Grimsley from the Board of Education Cabarrus County about the decision to go virtual learning in the fall. Stay tuned.


Commercial  30:52



Jason Huddle  30:57

Back to the program, right before the break Holly mentioned, working parents, which is exactly where I wanted to go next. Before we close out the program, I feel like it's important that we address this. What are working parents to do if you have two working parents and a child that's in second or third grade, and they have no older sibling to watch them? What are they supposed to do for their children? What options are there


David Harrison  32:32

It is going to be a nightmare for these parents that don't have alternatives and as I said, it's gonna force pop up daycares. You know, I have heard nothing about, you know, people saying, hey, let's get the Boys and Girls Club involved, the churches involved and on one hand, you think, Oh, that's great, you know, people may step up and you know, be able to offer some alternatives. But what are we going to get with that result? You know, are they going to adhere to social distancing and masking and put the precautions in place that's going to take care of exposure. To me our school system and our campuses have a better way to control adhering to those requirements. You know, we had made the plans that one teacher per classroom will stagger the kids, they won't be more than eight to 10 to a classroom, they'll social distance that wear the masks, are there challenges that that absolutely, but who was around to monitor them, if that schools are closing, they're having to find alternatives. You know, to me, we're substituting closing the schools where I feel like cleaning that can be done on a daily basis. You know, we have control over teachers wearing masks and not being, you know, in kids faces, you know, are there challenges? Yes, but are they any more or even less than the challenges that we're going to get with parents having to do alternative.


Jason Huddle  33:53

Carolyn, and I want to give you a chance to chime in here before we run out of time. What are your thoughts?


David Harrison  34:00

Jason, this online learning wasn't what anyone wanted it to be in the spring and Dr. Lauder assured us that the quality of it is going to improve and we do have to step up our game in terms of the effectiveness of the online learning. I won't name the person but he sent me a message that that I'll read to you here. He said he had read a Harvard study, that when COVID hit and everywhere, all across the country, everyone was going to virtual learning that there really was a seven month learning loss in math and English, just in the three months that kids were not physically, you know, physically in school. I don't know the background of that, but it sounds very convincing that online learning which the teachers stepped up and got into quickly and certainly did their absolute best in short order. And they worked on the effectiveness of it over the summer. I admire them, you know for that. The reality I think is that I hope the community will understand and appreciate the need to appreciate teachers and what they contribute to their child's life is good is going to be positive and good going forward.


Carolyn Carpenter  35:30

You've got to remember, this is not a permanent situation. I mean, if I had a magic wand and can say, this is what I hope will happen. I hope we can have this, you know, face to face, maybe even before Christmas. I mean, that's what I would like. This is not something that is going to be permanent. I would hope not, again, we had heard that may be we're seeing North Carolina turn around, I would hope, again, we are watching those numbers. That's why we put it on reviewing these numbers in it every two weeks to see if we are seeing a flattening now, or a change in that. That's why we made the motion the way we did to look at those things. Instead of just jumping at something, and then doing it. Some of our board members wanted to start with B and then they said, then we could go to C, well, then you've already done something, and you're going backwards. Personally, I would rather be safe than sorry, that is my kind of philosophy.


Jason Huddle  36:47

And I`m just gonna have to let that be the last word because we are out of time but David Harrison, Carolyn Carpenter and Holly Grimsley from the Cabarrus County Board of Education, I really appreciate you guys being willing to come on answer some tough questions. I know we have some more if you guys want to jump on to our Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine facebook group page when this episode posts on Thursday, we're, I'm sure our listeners would welcome the opportunity to ask you some more questions and have you guys answer them if you're willing, so, but thanks again so much for all your hard work and just keep doing what you're doing.


David Harrison  37:25

Thanks Jason


Carolyn Carpenter  37:26

Thank you, Jason, we appreciate it.


David Harrison  37:28

Thank you, Jason, for having us.


Jason Huddle  37:31

Obviously, I could`ve have made this episode a two parter. We didn't get to all of the questions I even had and I'm sure you have even more. I do want to call one thing out. I'm going to respectfully disagree with Carolyn Carpenter when she said that they did not vote on a plan B on July 13. If you recall, directly after that vote, there was Statement posted on the Cabarrus County Schools website, basically saying that if the governor said we had to go to plan B, here was our plan B and that laid out the plan. And it even as Holly mentioned, put out forms for you to fill out and tell the school what you wanted to do. Now, if that hadn't been voted on, why would they post that at all? Why wouldn't they just say, hey, we're going to be voting on this soon, we'll let you know. But they put out this whole statement and forms for people to fill out. So I disagree that there was not a decision made on July 13. But as I said earlier in the program, this was not an easy decision, and there is no easy way out. Even Plan B presents its own difficulties. So as I stated before, I don't pretend to know all the answers, but I do know that our students education is of the utmost importance. I do want to thank our guests today, Carolyn Carpenter. David Harrison and Holly Grimsley from the Cabarrus County Board of Education, I appreciate them spending their time with us. If you have any questions for them, please go to the Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine group page on Facebook, and hopefully they'll be able to answer them there. Until next time, you've been listening to Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine a presentation of CabCo Media Group and sponsored by Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group, Cabarrus Arena and Events Center, Cabarrus Eye Center, Certec Automotive, Concord Downtown Development Corporation, Level Up Realty, New Hope Worship Center and Walk Cabarrus. I've been your host Jason Huddle. Until next time, better upgrade that computer.

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