Polk County School System changes Covid-19 protocols

Published 6:05 pm Tuesday, February 22, 2022

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School Board gains approval for pay raise and least restrictive Covid-19 mandate approach



POLK COUNTY––Monday night, the Polk County School Board meeting discussed changes with employee pay and Covid-19 protocols and gained approval for both proposals.


Polk County School District proposed that all full-time employees (30 hours per week or more) would receive a $1,500 retention bonus for the 2021-2022 academic year. Part -time employees that are less than 30 hours a week would receive a $750 retention bonus for the 2021-2022 academic year. Those bonuses would be paid during the March 2022 pay period, and to receive those bonuses, those employees must have been employed by December 31 of last year, and the employee would have to sign an agreement securing their intent to stay through the end of the academic year, which ends June 31, 2022.


Superintendent Aaron Greene noted that some employees would not be in line for this bonus, as they are not regularly employed by Polk County School District. The motion was carried with a 7-0 vote.


Superintendent Greene also requested approval for a $2 per-hour increase for all bus drivers, no matter where they are on their pay scale currently. The bonus would be in addition to their $13 hourly pay or their 2.5% pay raise. The motion was carried with a 7-0 vote.


Superintendent Greene went on to discuss Covid-19 protocols and proposed how they might change.


He claims there has been a significant drop in Covid-19 cases in the school district, and Friday was the first day they had 0 cases. However, the new DHHS guidelines state that the schools must still isolate for five days any students who have tested positive for the virus.


Across North Carolina, there are 64 mask optional districts and 51 mask required districts. Superintendent Greene proposed to motion that face masks become optional as of Monday night.


“I said it last month, and I’ll say it again: at some point, we have to move forward,” Greene says. “This current model is not sustainable over the long term, and obviously the board has to take into consideration the most or least restrictive guidelines in relation to the risk the community is experiencing at the time. Decisions also have to be made in context to what’s happening in the broader community.”


The motion carried with a 7-0 vote. Superintendent Greene emailed all parents and families of the Polk County School System explaining that masks were now optional for students in school. The least restrictive approach to Covid-19 protocols will include returning to normal school activities; participation by the public; still addressing symptomatic students; still isolating positive cases; and still supporting nurses’ clinical judgment in situations where students are exhibiting symptoms.


In addition to the motions carried at the Monday meeting, the Board allowed students and families to speak publicly for a maximum of 3 minutes to address any concerns they may have.


Shelly Burrell, a parent of two students, addressed concerns about Polk County’s address toward transgenders and safety concerns.


She says, “You’re allowing genders to mix in the bathrooms and locker rooms. You have students who are non-transgenders who are uncomfortable. Opening the doors for more pedophiles to have access to our children. And that’s where we have to protect them.” The parent asks that the Board review the policies, look at the safety of the children, not only the transgenders, and that they take into consideration the parents that were not informed of the situation.


“We should’ve known from the get-go that you were allowing this in our school system,” she says.


Minutes later, a transgender student spoke out about his concerns in the school system.


“The actions that have been taken against other transgender individuals really makes me question the morals of my community and how many people truly care about the well-being of Polk County youth,” he said. “Every day I live in fear of simply existing as a transgender male. I have become dismayed to walk into the school every morning.”

As context, there is federal law that governs policies regarding transgender youth in school. Any public school in the Fourth Circuit, which includes North Carolina, must abide by the parameters of a Supreme Court decision that says schools must allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that align with their gender identities.

Dick Shaughnessy, a resident of Polk County, claims that Polk County School Board rejected his CRT (Critical Race Theory) proposal, claiming that NC is one of the worst to embrace “this racist garbage.”

Prior to the public comment from Shaughnessy, Superintendent Greene addressed the issue.

He stated that Polk County Schools are required to teach the North Carolina Standard Course of Study, and CRT is not referenced or mentioned in the standards for any subject.

“Currently, there are no requirements or directives from the state to teach or include CRT, or to use specific materials that are related to CRT. I am not aware of any teacher or classroom in Polk County Schools where CRT is being taught or will be taught. Polk County Schools has no plans to use those materials or approaches to teaching the standards.”

Another resident of Polk County, Bob Moscos, tells the Board, “You want to claim that the masks now brought the numbers down. Viruses run their course. And then they die out.”

He says, “We’re passionate about God, family, and county, country, and constitution. Mandates are not constitutional. None of you seem to understand the constitution. That’s a real problem, that you’re teaching our children with that kind of mindset.”

The next board meeting will be held mid-March.

Currently, parents of Polk County students can expect to receive more updates about the new Covid-19 protocols through emails from Superintendent Aaron Greene.

The opinions stated during public comments in this, or any article, are those of the individual making the comments, and not of the Tryon Daily Bulletin.

**this article has been updated to add context***