Advocating for our high school students

By Katie Henry

Pittsboro, NC – Brief history lesson for those who believe the PTA at your school is all about making you buy wrapping paper to raise money for field trips. The PTA was started in 1897 by two women who during that time did not have the right to vote but wanted to advocate for the safety of children’s health and education. This organization is still going strong and works every day to advocate for the betterment of all children.

As a former PTA president, treasurer and member, I have worked over 13 years in our K-8 school to advocate for all students. We used creative and healthy fundraisers such as our annual 5K to raise funds and promote wellness in our community. We made events accessible to all students regardless of cost or circumstance. The PTA continues to partner with local businesses and industry who have provided countless resources in the form of time, supplies and money. Our fundraising efforts have over the years been able to fund community outreach, parent/student enrichment and supplement the ever growing budget shortfalls from the county. We worked hand in hand with the teachers to make sure they were supported and appreciated by the community, students and the parents.

Understanding the basics of being an advocate for our students, I was concerned when I heard that a group of local teachers is asking for the support of the local PTA leadership to speak out against high school students returning to Plan B learning. The Chatham County Schools have done an excellent job of returning K – 8 students back to hybrid learning. The students and staff are following the safety protocols that have been provided to the administration from the CDC. There is total transparency and plans in place if there are positive cases. My youngest is thriving now that he is back in school even if it is only two days. My oldest children should have been back in the building the first time in almost a year today but that was delayed untill next week. The school board made the decision to delay by a week so the high school staff could get used to the safety protocols of Plan B. So we eagerly await February 1.

We cannot keep pushing the date out for an unknown resolution. Life outside the school building is moving on without our kids. Our federal and state government have promoted the 3 Ws to limit the spread of the virus. This is why our legislators are still able to govern, our grocery stores and restaurants are able to provide us food and our doctors and nurses are there when we need medical care. We all mask up, wash our hands and stay apart in every aspect of our lives but school. There are options for those who do not want to return to school. There are no options for those whether its families, students or teachers who want to return. We need to start debating the numbers during school board meetings about the failure rates (38% of all high school students in CCS have a D or F), drop in attendance and retention. Most meetings have been about teacher surveys on return to school and medical consultants who say time and time again that school is the safest place for children. But yet here we are almost into the month of February and our high school children are still being left behind.

Children by law should be in school and adults who are employed have avenues such as leaves of absences or other career paths. Educators should be the loudest advocates for our students but since we are not hearing from them, it’s up to us the parents. We need to be loud for our kids. We need to support the school by following their safety plan. We need to get back to doing what is in the best interest of all children.

So I ask all the fellow advocates of children to email, call and show up to the board meeting (February 8) and let’s get all of our children back into the building so they can learn and thrive safely along with the amazing educators we know are in Chatham County Schools. And sorry NCAE members, this PTA member does not support your cause but supports the safe thought out plan B, the CCS Administration and Board has laid out that promotes the education and well being of our students and staff alike.