School districts await governor’s final call on reopening schools this fall

Schools develop reopening plans

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) -School leaders are hard at work to create a plan for what school will look like in the fall.

On Thursday, New Hanover County Schools announced they’ve formed work groups to tackle the task. Each district is coming up with three sets of plans: one for schools opening at full capacity, one for half capacity and one scenario where the buildings aren’t open at all.

By July 1, Governor Roy Cooper will announce which plan will be in effect this school year.

Local leaders are using documents provided by the state as a framework for their localized plans. The report from Public Schools of North Carolina and the toolkit from NC DHHS spell out all of the options district leaders must take into account when formulating their plan.

As district leaders scramble to draft plans, parents are left waiting to see what August will bring for their families.

Amy Chapman’s son is a rising 6th grader at Myrtle Grove Middle School.

“It would be nice to know. Every other year we just know because its normal. It would be nice to know what to expect and to plan for it, and not even physical planning, but setting your mental expectations so you know what you’re getting into,” said Chapman. “I think for [Hurricane] Florence we were out for three to four weeks but you knew you were going to go back and you knew everything was going to be normal again but I don’t know what normal is or what its going to be.”

Her son Kenny says he’s looking forward to going back to school in the fall because he misses his friends, but he doesn’t want anyone to get sick.

PLAN A- Minimal social distancing

Plan A is the least restrictive of the three plans and will be utilized if the state’s COVID-19 metrics improve.

Everyone would be going back to school together but students and staff would all be screened each day before they get to class. Everyone except elementary school students would be wearing masks.

Desks would be moved, stickers on the floor would be put down to remind students of social distancing guidelines and there would be protocols in place to deliver lunch to classrooms, stagger recess times and change the bell schedules to everyone isn’t walking around at the same time. Staff would monitor arrival and dismissal and discourage groups of students from congregating. Non-essential activities and visitors would be limited. The guidance from the state also encourages virtual events like field trips, family meetings, assemblies and performances.

This plan would keep lessons in a physical classroom but also give students time to prepare for the chance that they would have to transition to remote learning.

PLAN B- Moderate social distancing

The plan for moderate social distancing could come into play if North Carolina’s health metrics do not improve. Plan B is the most complex of the three plans because each district would have to figure out how to operate their school at half capacity.

Documents from the state detail several scenarios; students could be split by grade level, keeping elementary students in school buildings but completely moving high school students to remote learning. If this is the case, state leaders theorize elementary and middle school students could even be shifted around to utilize high school campuses if those students are taking classes online.

Other scenarios within Plan B propose splitting schools in two groups. From there they would alternate which days of the week each group would come to school, split each instructional day into half days, or assign different weeks for students to show up to in-person classes.

while Plan B gets students physically in classrooms from time to time, the plan comes with major transportation issues, scheduling transitions as well as digital learning hurdles to overcome.

PLAN C- Remote learning

Under Plan C, schools would be completely closed to staff and students. Experts say this plan would go into play if the state’s COVID-19 metrics take a turn for the worst.

Summer nutrition programs would be up and running to make sure students had meals, but otherwise, learning would be done from home.

If the governor chooses this option, each district’s remote learning plan would have to be completed and turned over to the state by July 20.

While remote learning eliminates the problem of how school leaders would keep kids six feet apart, making sure every student is equipped to attend class online is no small feat. Online learning puts extra burdens on districts with less funding, less equipment and communities that don’t have reliable internet access.

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