Orange County Board of Commissioners meeting with two school boards
The Orange County Board of Commissioners will be conducting a virtual joint meeting with the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education and the Orange County Schools Board of Education.
the kind of commissioners want to just take a minute. Thio. Thank both the board's superintendents and staff for all of the work that you've been doing, uh, to deliver a sound basic education to our Children. Orange County. Uh, these are difficult times for our Children, Their parents, uh, educators, support staff and schools in general. The decisions that you make today may change tomorrow and trust me at no time you're going to make everyone happy with those decisions. Both districts have challenges, some are different. Some of the same technology has been a challenge. It was difficult before the pandemic on but emphasized the inequities for those that have easy access versus those that don't on. Now, with the pandemic, it's put on center stage. Today's New York Times estimated there's about 12 million Children in America, Uh, without the necessary tools technology, Internet services to continue their education. This will likely broaden the achievement gap. We also call out the opportunity gap here. Onda New York Times The same, probably for an entire generation, the lack of broadband in the county and the policies in place by the North Carolina General Assembly forbidding counties to deliver broadband service to his red to its residents is a perfect example of top down policy that supports large corporations who lined the pockets of our politicians while leaving humans our Children behind. It's no accident that broadband is not a utility in this country. The B. 0 cc. Has been aware of this broadband gap for at least two decades. We've all been involved, one way or another to acquire reasonable solutions to help our residents on this is not a district one or a District two or an at large issue. We are all deeply concerned with this, and folks were just not there a za matter of fact, it's even gotten harder over the past four years. So the tools that were left with our limited and they're expensive and in some cases, out in Orange County they don't even work. They're useless. Um, so what you all have done is a good job of investing large sums of money to purchase and operate these hotspots. Um, but they still have data caps on them that are controlled by the telecommunication companies. Just this week, the county manager, along with Dr Felder have have come to an agreement to amend our Cares Act funding, money distribution. We're gonna now assist Orange County and purchasing an additional at that 1000 hotspots on that amendment will be on the county commissioners October 6. Agenda to be approved. In addition, both District's have created learning centers and student hubs. You'll learn about them tonight from the schools. Andi these air for Children that don't have Internet services or a family at home to help them with their daily lessons and technology challenges. Again, we just wanna we want you to know that we understand this is a challenging time and we wanna thank you for your dedication and your flexibility to think outside of the box when it comes to taking care of our Children during a pandemic. Um, so thank you. Thank you. And thank you. Okay. I'm gonna hand that over to Marianne. Wonderful. Thank you all so much for it's great to all. Be together and see your faces. Um, we're so appreciative of the opportunity to collaborate and work together, I think right now, more than any time, we are so able to see how schools are in fact, the hubs of our communities and we knew it, but it is evident right now every single day and the support of the Board of County Commissioners and being able to work together with Orange County schools and within our community has never been more important because we have been able to really focus on what our students and our families need in these times. And we are very grateful for all that you do to make that possible. One of the things that is very, um, also that were very aware of is that equity has never been more than, um, but also that these challenging times in many ways air exacerbating those inequities as commissioner rich just shared. And it's not just broadband, it goes beyond that. And so we do. And we will share tonight just some unbelievable work that's been done through our food for Students Program to make sure that our food in security can be addressed for our students and families. Um, but also we are focused on how do we support our students academically as well a socially an emotional learning, And how do we do that for our students, but also thinking about our staff and our teachers and everyone else who is engaged in educating our students. And so as we come together, I think we know there are many challenges right now that we're trying Thio address every day. And I appreciated the note that what we have to do today compared to tomorrow, um, might be different. Um, but also that as we begin to come out of this pandemic, which I am an eternal optimist, eventually we will, in fact be addressing that there are going to be challenges that we did not face before. And some of the gaps will be even greater than they were when we went into this. And we're doing everything we can to mitigate that. But knowing that there's going to be a lot of work to be done and so will want to continue to work with you and continue to address those needs Before I hand this off to Hillary, I did want to mention that we also want to honor the life and contributions of misuse. L. Smith, a namesake of Smith Middle School who did recently passed away. She came and actually I believe it was on her birthday last year to a board meeting and allowed us to honor her. Um, but she's just such a great reminder of what this community is about and how we look at academics. But we're always looking at the whole child in the families. And so I want to just mention her tonight as yet another time. One more. You know, the letter inspire us yet again as we go through these challenging times. So thank you so much. Thank you, Marianne. Andi, let the record show that Mark Mark Coppola's has joined us. A swell is Jennifer more aan den Hillary is gonna hand this over to you so much. Good evening Chair Rich Vice Chair Price County commissioners and County staff Chair Wolf Vice Chair Fowler Chapel Hill Carrboro City School Board. Dr Cosby and Staff Orange County schools is pleased to be here tonight at this group of thoughtful leaders to collaborate around the best interests and needs of students throughout our county. While we're facing the public health crisis that has created new challenges and struggles for so many in our community, we're simultaneously experiencing a reckoning in our county, state and nation around racism as a district, Orange County schools is committed toe working transparently through these crises while we continue to educate, feed and provide a safety net for our students and their families. So thank you each for the work that you do in Orange County and for considering the important conversations will have here tonight. May this meeting bring forward creative solutions to benefit our communities. Children thanks Hillary and moving forward. Let's all go by first. Names will be a whole lot easier. Whole lot friendly or two. All right, folks. Eso We are going to move on to our covert updates and the chairs and I discussed this. It worked really well in school collaboration where we let the superintendent's just talk about the updates and you can see there's a through G on day gave us a 5 to 7 minute presentation in collaboration, and they passed on a lot of information, and, um, it worked out well, and then we had an opportunity to ask lots of questions. So that's the format we're gonna try to hold here. We're not holding you to five or seven minutes. If you have to go to 10 minutes, it's just perfectly fine. But as long as we can have time for a robust conversation afterwards. That would be great. Eso I have Dr Felder up first. If that's okay, Dr. Felder, with you, if you wanna bring your mic on and your camera and good evening it even chair Rich Vice chair Price The entire board of County Commissioners Chair Mackenzie Vice Chair Stevens, Uh, the Orange County Schools and Chapel Hill, Carrboro City Schools, Board of Education. All staff and everyone participating in tonight's meeting. So with regards, Thio Cove, it updates. Um, as I think about the school be opening in person, I I can't emphasize enough that the safety and health and well being of Orange County school students and staff remains our number one priority. Yes, we're currently in Plan C, which is all remote learning. However, our goal has always been a safe return. Thio in person instruction. Indeed, we are most eager to do so. As part of the Orange County schools preparation to return to school, the Board of Education established the Orange County Schools Cove it 19 metrics Task force. The task force is comprised of a broad spectrum of of different people, including students, teachers, classified staff, nurses, principals, parents, Central Office staff, community members and a board of education representative. The purpose of the task force is, um, and functions and collaboration with the Orange County Health Department. But their purpose is to monitor trends. Um, in for four metrics for four weeks prior to making a recommending recommendation to the Orange County Board of Education on DSO, a school board will be determining whether to remain in plan. See for the next nine weeks or to shift to Plan B. On Plan B is a hybrid or blended model that includes both remote learning as well as in person instruction. Uh, it will reflect a gradual phase in, and we'll include ah, 100% remote learning option what we call virtual Academy for families not wanting in person learning. Um, if we do a shift to Plan B, there will be strict adherence to the three W's, which we should all be familiar with wearing a mask, hand hygiene and social distancing. Next, I would like to invite Melanie Sto. She's our public information and family engagement officer to bring updates with regards to supervise learning labs and also a new feature that we launched and that would be our Internet hubs. Misto. Good evening. Thank you for the opportunity to share with you The needs of our families continue to drive the work of Orange County schools. Working parents with school age Children are faced with the challenges of how to ensure their Children are safe and a safe learning setting while they're at work. And this is even mawr daunting for families with low incomes, families who face greater health risk and families who face inequities and access to education and health resource is as well as employment options. Supervised learning labs are the new necessary adaptation of our before and after school programming While we're in Plant City remote learning The three priorities that are supervised learning labs are to support our families financial security so that they can go toe work to provide a safe in person option for students and support the students educational, academic success. And to prepare for Plan B, we have facilitated a supervised learning lab for a little over a month in partnership with the Y M C. A, and we successfully launched our second supervised learning lab and partnership with Pleasant Green United Methodist Church on Monday of this week. Equity is a district priority. And as we implemented our supervised learning labs, we dug deep to ensure that they were equitable, that they weren't exclusive, that they were inclusive. Our partnership with the Y offers three different payment options for for our students. I'm including, um, extremely reasonable rate of $10 a week, thanks to an anonymous donor in support of our six year partnership with the Y M. C. A. At two of our elementary schools, our second lab that opened this week, we dug even deeper, and we're in the midst of a global pandemic. So the needs are significant. And the spaces air Few and we had discussions throughout the district. Which of our students need these labs the most knowing we couldn't serve them all. So priority for our second supervised learning lab is given two students that are identified as McKinney, Vento or ESA. So those are our homeless students and foster care students. Thanks to the leadership of our board and their support of equity, we are utilizing our enterprise fund balance, which is our before and after school fund balance. Um, to provide this at no cost, including transportation. Again, we started on Monday. We're at 50% capacity. And, um, in the coming weeks, we will open a third phase, which will be at a school. So therefore it will be a licensed opportunity and we will be able to serve families that received DSS subsidies. And we're currently looking into ways to support our staff as we explore returning to school under plan B on DSO staff that may have their own child care needs a zey report back in person instruction and work. Ah, second piece of the equity and this has already been referenced is the lack of broadband access and on the locations of which, in Orange County, hot spot doesn't work and there just isn't service. And so to meet those needs, we have opened to Internet hubs. We will be opening a third one in the coming weeks. Aziz Well, and these hubs are located at our schools where we know there is a need based on heat maps and based on our own knowledge of Internet access. And so this allows families Thio sign up for a morning or afternoon session. Um, they're welcome to coat go to any of our middle and high schools. And there's a number of community spots with access and parking lots. But again, equity is not necessarily sitting in a car. Equity has been ableto have access to a restaurant, equities being an air conditioned and to be safe. And so we have opened those to provide Internet access to our students and families and will continue. Aziz, we're looking at plan B. Continue because Plan B does alternate weeks at 50% capacity. And so these needs for supervised learning labs and Internet hubs will continue until we're all back in school. Thank you. Yes, thanks. Melanie and Dr Felder, do you wanna continue on with that or someone else? Actually, good evening. This is Kathleen Dawson. Kathleen. Good morning. Many so nice Thio. See you and good evening, everyone. And thank you. Commissioners, commissioners and board members for this opportunity for this collaboration. And, you know, we still, when you speak of equity having access to bathrooms and a C and safety, I actually see that as rights to basic human rights. And I think that young equity, it's about human rights. Um, that our families should have access to bathrooms and safety. Um, but I do want Thio Thank you commissioners and board members for acknowledging the challenges that our district is facing, especially when it does come to equity and inequities caused by the digital divide that Kogan, 19 has brought to our attention more than ever before. And I do want to thank you for your support and your willingness to fund the additional hotspots that we need. Last spring, we were able to purchase and distribute 500 hotspots at the start of this pandemic. We've since then have purchased and distributed four more 400 more additional hotspots to families with no Internet but cell service. And just recently, we put in an order. We're working on 600 more hot spots so that we can meet the needs of our families, and we continue every day to get more requests. And I think you know, there was a question that was raised is like, Where is this coming from and why, while there are a number of our families in our community that may have Internet access, I think it was mentioned at the start of this meeting that quality of service is lacking and so families. You know, initially they trying on their own like to do what they can. But what they're finding is, you know, families who can pay the bills. They have multiple users in the house they have, you know, working parents trying to work from home. They have, you know, multiple Children, all trying to access the bandwidth to try to work and learn. And when it's spotty service, that makes it very, very challenging. And so, you know, they're reaching out to us to help us, to get better service. We want to goto work. We want to go to school. But lack of services making it difficult. And what we're finding is that the hotspots we are able to distribute is helping them. But again, there are, as you all know, areas in our community where there is no connectivity, so a hotspot won't even help. And so, you know, when I'm still was sharing about the Internet hubs at the same time when we have over 40% of our families that qualify for free and reduced, um, you know, meals we have to also think like, what's the reality of them being able to transport themselves to some of these locations that we have created. Ah, lot of our families rely on our transportation to get their students to our schools. And so as much as we're trying our best to provide access in multiple ways, there's still number of families that were unable to support. And, yes, we are expending quite a bit of funds to try to support our families. We have spent over $319,000 just on hot spots and associated services, and in an effort to support our families without connectivity, trying to be creative and how we can get them instructional materials we have purchased, um, flash drives to try to download, um, learning, um, lessons and trying to get those two students and allowing them to work on them and save them on flash drives and bringing them back to us. But again, this is not the way our Children should have to learn. Um, we've also worked on increasing our parking lots to make them WiFi access points at all of our secondary schools and parking lots. We've also strengthen the range of that WiFi service. There were in the midst of creating WiFi hot spot locations at our elementary school parking lots as well. Um, we have ordered teacher devices that are expected in October because our teacher devices are not adequate for remote instruction. They don't have cameras. Um, you know. So then, of course, we have to purchase Webcams to support the cameras because, as, um, you know, we've been trying to get the teacher devices in a soon as we can. In the meantime, we've had to find alternative ways. We are in the process of a student, Um, you know, computer refresh. But as you know, the our vendor and the manufacturers that they were using were put on the entity list by our U. S. Department of Commerce for allegations of violation of human rights and child labor laws. That has, um, definitely put, uh, damper on our timeline. As as of right now, we don't even know what you expected. Delivery date for our chromebooks, for our students are eso. Then we have, but because we need them because of the pandemic, we then had to make sure that we had alternative. So we're spending additional funding to rent devices to ensure that every child has access to a device that is costing us over $90,000. The Webcams alone was over $35,000. Um, teachers, uh, you know, for the safety because of the remote instruction to ensure that they had the most safe access to our virtual platforms. You know, we did pay for the enterprise, presume to try to avoid any zoom bombings, and, you know, activity like that that cost over $27,000 and what we're finding and what we're hearing. Because, you know, it's very important to listen to our teachers and to hear what their needs are as well. They're challenged. They have set up, you know, best scenarios as possible. But they're trying to use one laptop to try to see all of their students at the same time trying to manipulate their teaching lessons and the work that they're doing. And that's been very challenging. And so they've requested second monitors, I think, which is Onley reasonable, that teachers have the equipment that they need to be the best teachers that we're asking them to be. That's, you know, about $85,000. And once we are able to transition to plan B. We're still going to have students that are remote, while we do have some of our students in person to support our teachers, being able to take on that challenge of doing dual instruction of those who are in person as well as remote, trying to set up the technology that's needed in our classrooms to allow for that, um, flat panels are costing us over $300,000 uh, to be able to connect their laptop device to the flat panel when they're trying to use multiple screens. Um, that's going to be over $70,000 just for the docking stations on. But these were just some of the things you know that we've had to expend money on and more so now than we normally would have because of our response to Kobe it and to ensure that we are trying to do our best and offering virtual instruction. And so since July of 2020 we have expended over $954,000 as a result of Kobe 19 and it is continuing to climb and you know, there. And just so we're clear, like the our refresh of laptops that is not included in that dollar amount, because that was planned. Um, previously, before cove it it seems like so long ago. Um, so just to be clear, that that dollar amount is not in any of those, um, numbers that I just shared with you. So that's just a little bit of our technology needs. And but we do appreciate the collaboration and in going after a longer term fix, because, yes, this is an immediate, but our longer term need is access to the Internet. Without it, we cannot educate our Children to be globally competitive. Um, it is the world technology. And, you know, if we could band together and fight for that for not only our county, but our state, it will be imperative. Um, if we are to do what we're supposed to do in educating our Children. So thank you for that. And I will pass back to our fear. A superintendent. Dr. Felder. Thank you so much. Dr. Dawson s O. The next item providing an update on is the scientific analyzing board. Uh, that is now known as the ABC Science Collaborative. So this is ah, collaborative. That Orange County, along with Orange County schools along with Chapel Hill, Carrboro, City schools from public schools in Wake County school system participate in. We're not the only district's participating. We were the inaugural district's participating, uh, there are now 40 I believe, 40 maybe higher form or district that are currently participating. But the purpose of this collaborative collaborative is too a pair. Scientists and physicians with school and community leaders to help help us understand the most current and relevant data related to Kobe. 19. As we make decisions that will help keep, uh, students on staff safe, uh, when they return to the classroom. So their weekly covert 19 in the classroom. Webinars, uh, and weekly meetings with superintendents and members of our team Webinar topics have included the topic of mask exceptional Children. Uh, the flu and ventilation. Uh, and, uh, this, uh, the ABC Science Collaborative is currently supporting Orange County schools with developing detailed plans. S O. That would be the update on the ABC Science Collaborative. And at this time, I'm going