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Halifax County school board votes to let teachers bring their children to work / September 17, 2020
Employees of Halifax County Public Schools will be able to bring their children to work with them following a vote Monday night by the Halifax County School Board.

The board backed the proposal, 5-3, with Roy Keith Lloyd, Keith McDowell and Freddie Edmunds voting in opposition. Prior to the change in policy, some 90 teachers had requested special accommodations to stay at home while teaching so they could be with their children during the workday.

Employees are allowed to work at home with two-thirds of their regular pay under the terms of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump. The law allows most workers to take up to 10 days of paid leave and two-thirds of their regular pay after that time if working at home. The law also encourages employers and employees to work out arrangements for child care, including bringing children to the workplace.

ED-4 trustee Jay Camp introduced the motion to allow teachers to bring their children to work, drawing a second by Kathy Fraley and “yes” votes by Todd Moser, Sandra Garner-Coleman and Walter Potts. Supporters of the idea cast it as an important benefit for teachers, allowing a number of them to return to the classroom to teach their distance-learning students.

“We’re asking [teachers] to do a great deal, more than they’ve ever done in their entire career,” said Fraley. “I think this is something we need to offer our teachers so they can teach our other children.”

Employees would be required to keep their children together with them at all times at the workplace, and, in response to questions by Edmunds regarding liability and privacy concerns, maintain a closed teaching environment between students and the teacher. Teachers would be required to absolve the school division of any potential liability issues.

The policy limits children in school buildings to school-age youths.

On a night when one contentious debate spilled over into the next, Lloyd assailed the idea of allowing teachers to bring their children to school after a majority of trustees voted earlier to keep some 169 special needs learners at home, citing safety concerns.

“If it’s not safe for one population, I’m not sure it’s safe for any population,” said Lloyd, who said he would “almost feel hypocritical” if the teacher-child policy were approved by trustees. He acknowledged that some teachers with school-age children are in a tough spot, “but likewise, I’d say every parent in the county is in a terrible predicament.”

It is a “predicament we created” by keeping school buildings closed to start the new school year, Lloyd continued, and “our answer to the problem we created is creating another problem.”

Walter Potts, on the opposite end of the debate on whether to start the school year with remote learning, objected to Lloyd’s comments.

“Don’t put any guilt trip on me. We didn’t cause this,” he said. Potts added, “The virus caused this … so that’s a misstatement if I’m hearing what I heard correctly.”

Assistant Superintendent of Schools Valdivia Hall noted that the new policy would help the school division cope with challenges of starting the fall semester remotely, and problems brought on by the pandemic generally. “Our teachers need to come back [to school],” she said.

Of the 90-some employees who have sought special accommodations to work at home, about 10 have done so for health-related reasons, said Hall.

Touching on another matter that came up at Monday’s meeting — the recent auction sale of surplus transportation vehicles and parts, school furnishings, and other out-of-use equipment — Lloyd wondered how the School Board could approve a “for-profit” sale attended by some 250 buyers, but “we have 169 [special education] children who are in need of services who we are denying.”

Potts again responded to Lloyd, urging fellow trustees not to turn on each other. Potts said the fault for the school division’s predicament lies elsewhere. ”I’m not going to put our kids in jeopardy,” adding “the people in D.C. have kicked us in the head by not having decent testing.

“We’re fighting among ourselves, but the enemy is the people who haven’t done what they’re supposed to do,” Potts added.

The Aug. 15 auction sale at the former Daystrom building and the school transportation garage generated net proceeds of $88,836.35, with about $25,000 of that going toward construction of a new maintenance building and garage.

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