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While COVID-19 case numbers have been rising rapidly across the region, Cumberland County Schools has decided to proceed with in-person learning – as opposed to temporarily virtual – as the Spring 2022 semester resumes this week.

Superintendent Dr. Marvin Connelly Jr. made the recommendation to the board at a special called meeting Tuesday morning. Because there was no change to the original plan, no vote was needed from the school board on the measure.

Students are scheduled to start back in person on Wednesday, January 5, and will do so with additional mitigation strategies put in place.

Cumberland County positive test percentages are among the highest in the region, with 22.4 percent. Cumberland County Schools said about 8 percent of its staff has said they would not be able to return to work in person this week because of exposure to COVID-19.

There will be no outside visitors allowed in the schools during this time, as well as reduced capacity at athletic events. There will be additional opportunities added for testing.

While no vote was necessary from the board, multiple school board members – including Carrie Sutton – expressed concern with a return to school in person, and asked for a board vote. There was also a motion after the meeting had been adjourned to allow for public comment. The chair declined that request, drawing vocal complaints from the small audience in attendance at the meeting.

“I do think that there should be a vote because, myself as a board member, I do not agree with the Superintendent’s recommendation,” Sutton said as the meeting was being adjourned. “And I want to state my concerns on why I don’t agree with it. I don’t agree with it because we have a 22 percent infection rate.” Sutton also expressed concerned with how a staff survey was sent out and questions may have been misleading to staff members.

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Brandon Plotnick is a former sports journalist, now living in the digital space with interests all over the musical and pop culture map.