RANDOLPH COUNTY — As schools continued to hold classes and athletic events during the COVID-19 pandemic, challenges associated with the health crisis were the subject of this week’s Randolph County Board of Education meeting.

The school board heard from Laura Heflin, a fifth-grade teacher at Trinity Elementary School, who requested input from the board on what it plans to do to improve the safety protocols for its institutions. As the county’s testing numbers continue to rise, Heflin said an 18.5% positivity rate is cause for grave concern.

In order to address that concern, she brought observations from the classroom to the attention of board members. Temperature checks have proven troublesome, she said, because skin coolness during winter months compromises the accuracy of forehead thermometers.

Students and staff are asked questions regarding COVID-related symptoms, but Heflin said younger students in elementary schools are not offering complete information. In some instances, her fifth-grade students have been removed from the classroom after their younger siblings began exhibiting symptoms.

Her concerns extend to the masks students are wearing. Popular gaiter masks, she said, create problems as students wear them around their necks. Even when worn properly, the gaiter consistently falls down, according to Heflin. Additionally, scientific research has called into question the protection offered by the gaiter.

Finally, class sizes in the elementary schools are in issue, she indicated. In one of her classes, Heflin said she has 21 students in the room.

“You cannot space them out six feet,” Heflin said. “This class is also the class I eat lunch with. Twenty-two mouths, no masks, open spewing spit in my small classroom everyday at lunchtime.”

Board chairman Gary Cook followed up with questions for RCSS Superintendent Stephen Gainey following Heflin’s remarks. When asked about whether there is a better way to conduct temperature checks on students, Gainey said staff continues to do the best they can in the screening process and offered that he would check into temperature checks conducted on the wrist, as suggested by a board member.

In a workshop prior to the meeting, the superintendent praised the efforts of teachers, students and parents, as well as the board, in making it through 88 days of school since August. He pointed to Trinity High School as a success story on the protocols in place working.

“We have been in school since Aug. 17,” Gainey said. “Is it exactly the school we were having on March 13? Absolutely not. But is it better than not trying at all? Yes, it is.”

Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at dkennedy@atnonline.net.

Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at dkennedy@atnonline.net.