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SCS continues to develop plans for the fall

School systems across the state are preparing for how to safely reopen schools in August, even as the coronavirus continues to ravage the state.

Systems are required by the state to created three reopening plans to deal with the coronavirus.

Plan A involves minimal social distancing with students attending school full-time.

Plan B involves moderate social distancing with students alternating between in-person instruction and remote learning.

Plan C involves returning to full-time remote learning.

Stanly County Schools was awaiting a reopening plan from Gov. Roy Cooper during a scheduled press conference Wednesday afternoon, but he instead he said a decision would come in “the next couple of weeks.”

“We believed we needed a little more time to make sure we get this plan right because education, I think, is the most important function of state government,” he said, noting that his biggest priority is making sure schools reopen for in-person instruction in August.

Mandy Cohen, secretary of North Carolina’s DHHS, said international research has shown schools have not played a significant role in the spreading of the virus and that young children are less likely than adults to be infected.

But without specific guidance from the state, creating plans for the fall has become harder.

“It’s a difficult situation,” Interim Superintendent Vicki Calvert said during a Board of Education meeting Wednesday.

But as the school system awaits a decision by Cooper, remaining flexible and nimble is key.

“We kind of have a tagline that we’re using in this planning and it is ‘Be Ready, Get Ready, We’re Ready,’ ” Calvert said Thursday.

‘Divide and Conquer’

In order to create the appropriate reopening plans, along with the health and safety protocols that go with them, Calvert said the school system “had to divide and conquer.”

After sending out surveys to parents, students and staff at the beginning of June, school administrators, central office staff and curriculum coaches were divided into committees that reported back to Calvert.

“This is definitely involving multiple stakeholders at different levels from within the system,” Amy Blake-Lewis, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said on Thursday.

The committees first met June 22.

The committees include:

  • Curriculum and Instruction, led by Blake-Lewis;
  • Operations, led by Director of Facilities and Maintenance Todd Bowers;
  • Resources, led by Chief Financial Officer Terry Dudney;
  • Safety and Wellness, led by Director of Student Services Beverly Pennington; and
  • Professional development, led by Head of Technology Shawn Britt.

Blake-Lewis said her committee has spent the last week developing an instructional guide for staff. This week the committee will begin creating drafts for Plan A, B and C.

“We realized as we started to dig through and peel back the layers of the onions, it needs to be focused around the curriculum,” Calvert said of reopening, “because that’s what’s important. How are we going to deliver instruction for our students.”

It’s the job of the other committees to provide the curriculum team with whatever they need, Calvert said.

Safety protocols

Michael Sprayberry, director of Emergency Management for the state, announced Wednesday that all school systems will receive two months worth of personal protective equipment, including a supply of thermometers, surgical masks, face shields and gowns. Pennington said the school system received those key resources last Tuesday and school nurses will meet this week to divide the supplies.

“To get two months supply is going to be very helpful,” Pennington said.

The school system is also accepting bids to order masks, Calvert said, noting that the recommendation is to provide five cloth masks to every student and staff member. Bowers is also purchasing additional safety equipment.

The masks will be required for all middle and high school students and staff if some form of in-person instruction occurs, along with daily temperature checks for all students, staff and visitors as they enter the school. Students and staff will also sign a form noting that they are not experiencing any symptoms. Pennington cited a study conducted by a state school nurse association that predicted it will take about 30 minutes to scan 100 students.

Even though Cooper hasn’t announced any specific plan, Pennington said Plan B would be the hardest to implement, likely because it would require constant shifting between in-person instruction and working remotely from home.

A survey of parents by SCS found 29 percent of them do not feel comfortable sending their children to school in August, Calvert said.

“That speaks to us,” she said.

Calvert said regardless of if Plan A or B go into effect, there will be full-time remote instruction available to students who choose to remain at home. She said parents do not need to worry about coming up with lesson plans.

“I want them to be comforted by the fact that we’re going to work with them,” Calvert said.

Sometime likely in mid-July, the school system plans to send out what it refers to as “Intent to Return” forms that parents will fill out. It will include information about transportation and what educational environment (remote, in-person) their children would prefer.

“That way we can begin planning for parents’ wishes,” Calvert said.

‘Stanly Strong’

Though the last few months have not been easy and the future is uncertain, Calvert said SCS has been up to the task.

She commended the teachers and staff who have “stepped up to the plate” during the past few months to help the students.

“They could have just focused on their own needs, but they didn’t,” she said.

“This is a challenge and it can be very overwhelming, but we choose to think of it as an opportunity,” Calvert added. “It’s an opportunity to think outside of the box and be creative. We’re kind of choosing to look at it as an opportunity for growth because education as we know it has changed forever.”

 

 

 

 

 

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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