NC Board of Education updated on COVID ‘clusters’ at schools

BOE member J.B. Buxton formally resigns

New Durham Tech President J.B. Buxton.

RALEIGH — At the most recent N.C. State Board of Education meeting on Sept. 3, a board member officially resigned, and updates were received from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS).

The state board’s chairman Eric Davis formally announced that J.B Buxton had resigned. Buxton is leaving to become president of Durham Technical Community College. Gov. Roy Cooper will have the opportunity to replace Buxton’s at-large seat.

Elections for the chairman position were also held. Eric Davis was unanimously re-elected as chairman and Alan Duncan was re-elected as board vice chairman.

NCDHHS Chief Deputy Secretary Susan Gale Perry and Senior Policy Advisor Rebecca Planchard presented Phase 2.5 updates to the board.

The NCDHHS presentation said that there were six confirmed clusters in K-12 schools as of Sept. 1. and that the “majority of cluster-associated cases” in schools were among staff.

Perry told the board that the state’s schools did not see a large increase in COVID-19 cases after opening on Aug. 17 due to “careful reopening strategies,” yet the data provided by NCDHHS shows the vast majority of students are still at home. Per the NCDHSS data, 64 school districts, around 987,000 students, are using Plan C, remote only learning.

Two clusters reported prior to schools reopening on Aug. 17 are no longer active. Those clusters included five staff members at North Iredell High in Iredell County and six staffers at East Union Middle School in Union County.

According to the NCDHHS COVID dashboard updates from Sept. 4, the active school clusters are at North Hills Christian School in Rowan County, Franklin High School in Macon County, Robbins Elementary in Moore County, Plainview Elementary in Sampson County and Mount Calvary Christian Academy in Greene County.

In these active clusters, only five students were reported infected in four of the five schools. There were 33 infected staff members across all five of the schools.

Sports fans and athletes also received updates during the meeting. North Carolina High School Athletic Association Commissioner Que Tucker notified the board that she will make an announcement after Labor Day about how Phase 2.5 will impact sports scheduling. Tucker said that the start of Fall Sports on Nov. 4 will include cross country running, volleyball, swimming and diving. Basketball is scheduled to start in December if state health guidelines permit.

Another notable piece of news is that the company behind NCEdCloud, which provides the platform that houses the state’s online learning tools, had its contract extended.

The board approved a $1.7 million contract extension with Identity Automation that will last one year. The new contract represents a $200,000 a month increase over the previous contract.

The NCEdCloud crashed twice during the open week of schools, on Aug. 17 and Aug. 19, which hampered logins from both students and teachers.

About A.P. Dillon 560 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_