COLUMBUS COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - A new school year is underway in Columbus Counties. Most students are starting out virtually while some are back in the classroom.
In July, Columbus County School leaders decided on a plan for the 2020-2021 school year. The plan says for the first month, grades K-3 will begin the school year on campus. Students will be socially distanced, expected to wear face coverings, and the school system will continue to implement stringent safety and sanitation guidelines. Grades 4-12 will begin the school year virtually and return to school on a staggered basis beginning on September 14.
Tamara Greene and her son Hunter, a 4th grader at Cerro Gordo Elementary, said it was a good first day of online learning.
“I just took the day off to get him up and going the first day,” said Tamara. “He knew exactly what to do and where to go.”
Tamara said they didn’t have many road blocks and they’re thankful they had went through this back in the spring so they could be prepared for this new year.
“It was challenging last spring,” said Tamara. “Everything online wasn’t for sure what to expect, what to do. The teachers really chipped in. I think we all supported each other and got on board with it. This morning was really easy and simple. We logged in. We done his attendance and we got onto his first meeting with his first teacher. We got done at around 11 today.”
Tamara said though the first day was quite easy, she fears internet will become an issue for Hunter.
“I work about everyday so he will be staying with my momma,” said Tamara. “Where she lives in Cerro Gordo the internet is not as fast to what I have so he will be having some internet issues there.”
Deanne Meadows, the Superintendent for Columbus County Schools, said she is aware of the issues are the school district is working on solutions for those who suffer from internet problems.
“We’ve worked with some community groups that say they have internet in their location that say students can come by their and use their internet,” said Meadows.
Another parent in Columbus County says she has been frustrated.
“We were not issued a Chromebook so he could remote learn,” said Shannon Jacobs Monday morning.
Just a few hours after Jacobs spoke with WECT, she was told by her son’s school that she could pick up a Chromebook Tuesday. Jacobs is a stay at home mom and opted to keep her first grader home to do 100% virtual learning.
“I don’t understand why some of these issues were not anticipated,” said Jacobs. “I know this is tough and kinda new, but frustrating as well for parents.”
Meadows says more Chromebooks are on the way for those students who need one. A survey, given out over the summer, asked person if they had a device their child could use for school and many said yes.
Overall, Meadows says the first day of school in Columbus County went well.
”The students were there, they had their masks on, they were social distance, they were using their hand sanitizing, but they were all still very engaged, learning, which is what we want to see,” said Meadows. “They had their meals; their breakfast and their lunch int he classrooms. Lots of wiping down things as teachers moved around but it seemed like it went pretty well today.”
Tamara says her concern for when Hunter is back in school is mask enforcement.
“They’re going to have a hard time having the kids wear a mask the whole time and with them wearing it all the time and how many breaks are they going to get with it?” said Tamara.
Meadows says from what she saw during her visits to schools Monday, students are keeping the masks on and they get some breaks.
“When they eat breakfast, when they eat lunch they get a mask break,” said Meadows. “Students were able to go outside and keep them socially distance so they were able to have a break.”
Meadows says the school district is trying hard to understand parents and student frustrations.
“We are trying just as hard as we can to get the students in and make sure we’re accommodating parents needs while also trying to ensure that safety and that health for staff and students,” said Meadows.
If you have questions or concerns regarding the new school year, reach out to your school and someone there will direct you to the appropriate person.