Cumberland County delays return to classroom until March 15

Posted January 12, 2021 9:30 a.m. EST
Updated January 12, 2021 6:32 p.m. EST

— The Cumberland County Board of Education voted Tuesday to delay the return of in-school learning until March 15 in hopes that enough teachers and staff can get the COVID-19 vaccine by that time to allow them to safely return to the classroom.

The school system had planned a return to the classroom in January.

Superintendent Dr. Marvin Connelly Jr. recommended the delay to the board based on the metrics of daily new coronavirus cases and community spread in the county.

"Our goal now is to try to get the majority of our staff vaccinated in hopes that, by the end of the quarter, we'll be in a better position to transition to Plan B," he said.

Plan B involves a mix of classroom and online instruction.

He said school administrators were working with the county health department to prioritize vaccinations for teachers and staff.

Anyone who works in education – teachers, school staff and child care workers – is considered an essential worker under the state plan for vaccine distribution and would be eligible for the shot in Group 2 of Phase 1B. By Tuesday, Cumberland County was in the first group of Phase 1B, vaccinating those 75 and older.

Connelly said he'd get his shot in public – several members of the school board will do so as well – to demonstrate that it's safe and to encourage others to get vaccinated.

Teachers and staff will not be required to take the vaccine, but Connelly hopes they do to protect themselves, their co-workers and their families and neighbors.

Cumberland County resident Pat Moore agrees. She has a grandchild in the public schools, and her daughter is a teacher.

"That means if she has to go back to school," Moore said, "she's going to be out of the bubble and is going to be bringing it back to us."

Parent Michelle Hallas is among those fighting to get children back in schools. She had hoped the vaccine would make that happen before March.

“I knew that they were getting ready to roll that (vaccine) out for educators in the last week of January the first dose. Then three weeks later would be the second dose," she said. "I really was hoping for a mid-February opening."

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