Guilford County Schools Addresses Concerns From COVID To HVAC

Guilford County Schools officials are sounding alarm bells about aging infrastructure in the system. One school had to close early this week and that is just one example of the many challenges the district faces this year.

Jamestown Middle School was fired early Thursday after the air conditioning stopped working. Chief Inspector Dr. Sharon Contreras says about 540 work orders have been submitted by schools for HVAC problems in buildings.

She says the increase is due to high temperatures, pandemic delays for parts and old buildings.

“We have some buildings that are 100 years old and we’re trying to maintain these systems that we don’t even have parts for and the students in these buildings are trying to learn some with asthma and other pre-existing conditions,” says Contreras.

District officials say they cannot use fans due to COVID-19, but they are working with the directors to keep children safe and proactively relocate them if necessary and explore other alternatives.

Contreras says the school board will discuss capital needs and she expects a bond referendum proposal for next year to be part of that discussion.

At a press conference, Contreras also spoke about what she called unparalleled car lines for picking up and dropping off students, as fewer people take the bus, as well as a shortage of bus drivers.

Despite the challenges, GCS says it’s off to a good start. As of Tuesday, more than 64,000 students are enrolled and that number is growing. There are also zero teacher vacancies at the start of the new school year, thanks to a major recruiting effort that has used federal COVID aid funding to offer bonuses and other incentives.

As for the COVID statistics, 224 students are currently in quarantine. Of that number, 99 are student athletes.

The district says it will begin mandatory testing for unvaccinated student athletes and for unvaccinated students who participate in high-risk extracurricular activities, including a marching band, choir and dance. The inspection requirement also applies to unvaccinated coaches and sponsors in these areas.

Contreras says the universal mask requirement remains in effect and the school board will re-evaluate that policy in 10 weeks. The district is also working with local health officials to organize vaccination clinics on some campuses.

*Follow Keri Brown from WFDD on Twitter @kerib_news

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