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A Brandywine School Board member, who once served as school board president, apologized for the first time, at Monday's board meeting for comments he made in an email, challenging teachers to "find a new career" if they didn't want to face the risks of returning to classrooms during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ralph Ackerman exchanged emails in June with Carrcroft Elementary teacher Abby Sipress, saying while it was a "tough decision," he wanted teachers back in the classroom.

"The damage to our society from not opening is too great not to consider it in some form. The standard was bend the curve, not prevent any death...teachers are first responders to our future, if they cannot handle the risk, seek a new career."

Here's the full email exchange:

Ackerman addressed those comments during Monday's board meeting.

"As many of you are aware, there was an email exchange between myself and teacher regarding reopening schools. I want to express my regret for my poor choice of words when suggesting that the teacher find a new profession. This was unprofessional, and not characteristic of who I am. I have always had a profound respect and admiration for teachers, and have worked hard on the board for many years to do what is best for both teachers and students. I would like to publicly apologize for suggesting that teachers change their career. I would never want to hurt anyone, and I now realize what I wrote was hurtful, and for that I am sorry. I am concerned with the health and safety of our students, teachers, staff, and community at-large. I also want what is best for the education of our students, but safety comes first. I am proud of our district for all of their hard work they are doing to find a balance between a quality education and the health of our community. I look forward to continuing to work for our community on the board with renewed sensitivity in my communication with staff and families. 

Ackerman added he had the opportunity to privately apologize to Sipress in a meeting with another teacher from Carrcroft last week.

Sipress later said she's ready to move forward.

"Mr. Ackerman apologized for the comments he made in his email to me, and we had a lovely, lengthy conversation. At this point, I am satisfied with his apology, and looking forward to moving on with the start of the school year."

Brandywine's school board announced Monday they will begin the year remotely on September 16, 2020, with teachers having the option to teach from their classrooms, once they have passed a state-mandated COVID-19 test.