by HALEY GRIGGS || In early August, I was approached by several in the community about running in the October 12th special election for the Lexington-Richland District Five Board of Trustees. They expressed the belief that my educational background and work experience would make me a valuable resource to the board and the various issues the district is currently facing in light of COVID-19.
I agree with those sentiments and know that I can use my professional knowledge and my passion for our children to contribute.
My husband, David, and I were born and raised in the district and my son attends District Five schools. My family has strong ties to the District Five community through work, church and extracurriculars. My mother-in-law has been a kindergarten teacher in the district for over 20 years and was teacher of the year at River Springs Elementary in 2020.
In my professional life, I am a board certified Nurse Practitioner and work at a private practice within the district that specializes in internal medicine. My nursing background is in emergency medicine and in addition to my advanced practice certification. I also currently hold a national certification as an emergency nurse.
Having personally cared for hundreds of COVID-19 positive patients since February 2020, I hold a unique perspective on COVID-19 that allows me to offer insights and first-hand knowledge regarding the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff. This sets me apart from the other candidates.
Dr. Ross and the current board have made steps towards a safe, in-person reopening strategy and have developed a coding system to reflect associated risk based on individual schools. With that being said, I know we can do more when it comes to operational measures and ensuring the safety of all students and employees.
One facet of the response that needs to be re-evaluated is the district’s current quarantine policy. As it stands, vaccinated and unvaccinated children are treated differently in regards to quarantine. Not only is this discriminatory, it is also not scientific. Based on the latest data regarding vaccine efficacy, we should not be treating vaccinated students differently than non-vaccinated students. In addition to this, comparing COVID dashboard data from last year (when we had stricter mitigation policies) to now (with more relaxed procedures), one will see there is minimal difference in the number of affected students. The United States’ has more restrictive measures in schools than nearly every other country and this has had an even more detrimental effect on student learning and mental health.
COVID-19 will not be going away any time soon but with proper infection mitigation techniques, we can limit exposure and potential transmission within our district. Common sense protocols will allow for a safe and effective learning environment for the families who choose to return to face-to face-instruction.
I believe choice is of the utmost importance for this new school year. The response to COVID-19 is not one size fits all. Regardless of if one is referring to masks, vaccinations or learning framework – choice must always be available. What may be appropriate for some, will not be appropriate for all and we must embrace the various needs of our district.
District Five currently has an all virtual option (FIVE) in addition to its traditional in-person classes. It is imperative that these options remain available to meet the needs of our diverse population. I understand and respect that there are those who are uncomfortable returning face to face in a traditional setting but some children learn more effectively in a traditional environment and may opt for the face-to-face framework. We must remain diligent in balancing health and safety in conjunction with options that are accessible and serve the educational needs of all students.
There is a large push within the educational systems across the country, in which children are being taught that organizations are systemically racist. While racism does exist, no one is born inherently racist. We must ensure that Critical Race Theory and all other related content stays out of our schools. We must foster an environment in which all are treated equally with equal opportunities to succeed, regardless of skin color. We also need to ensure that historically accurate, non-biased curriculum is being taught.
Over the last several years, there has been a movement that involves bringing age-inappropriate sexual content into the classrooms. Sexuality, gender and other similar topics are best left up to parents in many cases. Public education should stick to basic biology and refrain from controversial topics that are more appropriate to be taught at home.
The district has a student population of 17,500 and an annual budget that exceeds $200 million. Responsibility of overseeing these funds requires transparency, integrity and good stewardship of taxpayer dollars to ensure that all schools within the district have their needs met. All clusters must be treated equally and fair. All respective voices from each cluster will have an advocate and an avenue to be heard with me.
With the passionate community we have, District Five should be the best in the state. It is important that we recruit and retain the best teachers and focus our resources on the classroom.
I would like to be a part of the solution to any current divisions that exist within our district. I know that I can work alongside Dr. Ross and the current board members to address some of the district’s most pressing concerns as well as showing more urgency in addressing many of those concerns. We owe it to our children to come together and collaborate – despite any differences- for a better future.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
(Pic: Scott Krause/ via Griggs for Lexington-Richland 5)
Haley Griggs was born and raised in District Five. She is a nurse practitioner in Irmo, S.C. who has one son attending school in the district.
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