Southern Pines Councilman Mitch Lancaster has had strong personal opinions about mask mandates and ongoing state restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic, particularly how they impact school students.

During a council meeting Monday, he asked his fellow council members to support a resolution asking N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper to approve Senate Bill 37. That legislation, approved by both the House and Senate with strong majorities, requires school districts to give students the option of in-person learning.

The bill, awaiting Cooper’s signature, would not impact Moore County Schools. The district already has its K-5 and special needs students back full-time and offers partial in-person learning for grades 6-12. The legislation targets other districts that are only offering virtual learning.

“I think it is extremely important that we get all kids back in school five days a week,” Lancaster said. “There are kids (back) in school around the world and around the country, and it is being done safely. Even here in Southern Pines, there are private schools where kids are in school five days a week. It is doable.”

SB 37 does not require five-day in-person, only the option for such, and it was unclear from Lancaster’s remarks whether he recognized this distinction.

Earlier this month, Gov. Roy Cooper and state education officials encouraged local school systems to reopen for in-person instruction, but they stopped short of mandating the move or issuing firm guidance about how it should be accomplished.

“I know Cooper is urging people, but I think it needs to be a reverse mandate. We need to get the kids in school,” Lancaster said. “I want it to be known that we have to push to get schools open.”

Lancaster said he understood that more students returning to in-person learning could increase the spread of coronavirus, but said that should not be the only health consideration.

“There is real harm being done, real tangible harms being done to children (being out of school). I think it is important to me and our citizens to get our children back in school,” Lancaster said.

During discussion, other members of the Southern Pines Town Council demurred from taking action, with most stating they did not have a clear enough understanding of the legislation.

“I don’t disagree with what Mitch has said, but I am uninformed,” said Councilman Mike Saulnier.

Mayor Pro Tem Paul Murphy also noted that while the council work session was underway, he had received a text from an MCS teacher who let him know she had been exposed to COVID-19 as a result of classroom instruction.

“While (in-person learning) seems okay in some settings, given the demographics of our population, in other settings where they are in smaller spaces, it can be challenging,” Murphy said. “I’m an educator and there are some factors that I’d like to see first.”

Lancaster responded that he did not want to put anybody in a position where they felt they were being pushed too much, “but I would ask you to please speak out if you believe in getting schools reopened.”

(5) comments

Stephen Woodward

First, a page from Journalism 101. A reporter must never bury the “lede” by opening with a paragraph that does not tell the reader "what’s the news”. Mitch Lancaster’s positions on mask hysteria is not any longer news. It is well documented. In this case, Ms. Douglass seems to signal a reader warning: Before I tell you what he said I want to raise doubts, again, about his credibility.

Further along in the piece, the reporter again takes liberties with objectivity. "SB 37 does not require five-day in-person, only the option for such, and it was unclear from Lancaster’s remarks whether he recognized this distinction.” Does she not recognize that there is no distinction? If 70% of parents of Moore County kids in grades 6-12 want their children to learn in the classroom five days a week, and the Board of Education approves it based on current student health "toolkit provisions" (issued by the state), said parents undoubtedly will “opt” to have said children back, full time, as middle and high schools will have to comply.

In any case, 70% is far better than 0%. If the reporter is confused (as she suggests) by Mr. Lancaster’s remarks, it is her job to call on a device known as a phone and ask for a clarification, rather than implying that Mr. Lancaster might not know about which he speaks.

"The bill, awaiting Cooper’s signature, would not impact Moore County Schools.” Yes, it would. The bill was written to hasten re-opening of schools. Section 2 reads, "Local boards of education shall provide the option of in-person instruction under Plan A (Minimal Social Distancing) or Plan B (Moderate Social Distancing) for all other students enrolled in grades kindergarten through 12 in that unit. It shall be in the discretion of the local board whether in-person instruction shall be provided under Plan A (Minimal Social Distancing), Plan B (Moderate Social Distancing), or both Plans as necessary to address the needs of different schools”.

As for the discussion within the Council, members Saulner and Murphy should issue their own “clarifications". Public education has been disrupted as never before for nearly one year. Study after study finds issues with kids falling behind and becoming depressed, even suicidal. Where have these council members been hiding?

Saulner said: "I am uninformed.”

Murphy said: “Given the demographics of our population, in other settings where they are in smaller spaces, it can be challenging. I’m an educator and there are some factors that I’d like to see first.”

Why have you not been “educating” yourself these past 12 months, Mr. Educator? And riddle me this: Does this virus become more dangerous if you happen to live in a lower income “demographic”, or does it prefer to go after mostly rich kids? If Murphy was a Republican, he’d be called out as racist for mentioning the third-rail of "demographics".

Justin Bradford

Woodward, you and your team of unAmerican troglodytes are doing a great job stirring the pot in our community. Only problem is, still many conservatives who see through you, Hensley, Boesch, and all your ignorant science denial. Lancaster here is done in town, time to pack up your clown show and take it to another town Stevie. Maybe Naples would be glad to have you...

Stephen Woodward

Who are you, Justin? I think you’re an insect on my windshield. What’s your agenda? I’d be more than happy to sit down across a table and have a discussion. Bring it on. I’ll buy the coffee. Or the beer.

Kent Misegades

All home schools and most private and charter schools returned to normal classes months ago. No wonder parents are fleeing our poor (but wildly expensive) government schools.

“Mindless Mask Mandates Likely Do More Harm Than Good”, By Joseph Mercola

February 18, 2021

Justin Bradford

We can always count on Qanon Kent to post disinfo. Well done troll. Good troll. Q loves you.

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