‘We know what to do and how to do it’: NHCS Superintendent on the return to the classroom

When it comes to educating children against the backdrop of a pandemic, the district learned a lot last year
Published: Aug. 19, 2021 at 10:50 PM EDT
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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - Most public school students in New Hanover County will start class next Monday, which will mark the first time back to face-to-face learning for some students in over a year.

When it comes to educating children against the backdrop of a pandemic, the district learned a lot last year. New Hanover County Schools Superintendent Dr. Charles Foust said the goal is to keep students in the classroom by following the safety protocols in place.

“Now that we’ve done it for over a year, we know what to do and how to do it,” Dr. Foust said. “Decisions that school boards, and I say that with an ‘s,’ have made are all about students and making sure that we do it safely.”

When it comes to how students learn best, it was found that remote learning was not effective.

“We lost a lot of instruction last year,” Dr. Foust said. “Our data shows that we would have to do 150 hours of instructional remediation for students in order to make up for it and once it’s lost, it’s lost. And so our goal is not to have to go back to that [remote learning].”

That’s why the district was in favor of following the guidance outlined in the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit, which says schools should require masks for all students, staff and faculty K-12th grade.

The decision to require masks will ultimately limit the number of quarantines, according to Dr. Foust, even if someone in the classroom tests positive for COVID-19.

“Last year, if there was someone who was in their class [with COVID-19], we would have to do the contact tracing and we may have to shut down the entire class because of that,” Dr. Foust said. “If masks are worn appropriately we don’t have to do all those things.”

If a student refuses to wear a mask, it will be handled as a noncompliance case, which is when a student does something against the rules and regulations. For example, a student walking down a hall they’re not supposed to walk down.

Parents have expressed concerns that there are no remote learning options this year. The Superintendent said they will do what they have always done when students have to stay home from school.

“We will do like we’ve done in previous years — if a student is out then we can get the work to them,” Dr. Foust said. “We will work it out with the schools on how to get assignments to individuals in a timely basis.”

He added that the school system is now more technologically advanced than before the pandemic, making it easier for students and parents to stay in contact with teachers, and even the principal, to stay up to speed from home.

Dr. Foust said he is most looking forward to being back in school, “doing what we love to do and that’s educate kids. Making sure, you know, going out and seeing students in their element, in the classroom, watching teachers teach dynamic lessons, watching principals monitor their buildings, being able to go to some of the sporting events.”

The district’s goal is to be one of the top 10 school districts in the state, Dr. Foust said.

“We are going to get there — we are. And so I just believe that, you know, everyone should just watch out because here we come.”

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