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Schools release plans after closure order

Teachers, students and staff members are reacting to a new normal for the remainder of March as Gov. Roy Cooper on Saturday ordered all public schools statewide to close for two weeks to halt the transmission of the coronavirus.

This comes after it was revealed that the state has more positive results of the virus, the closest to Stanly being neighboring Cabarrus. More than 30 cases were present statewide as of Monday afternoon.

Stanly County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff James said SCS’s leadership had an online meeting with state officials Sunday. Around 20 SCS staff members were gathered Sunday afternoon working on plans for the next two weeks.

Late Sunday, SCS said this week will be sheltered workdays for staff members.

“We just have to get solidified next week what we’re going to do,” James said.

“This time will be used to prepare for remote and alternative learning procedures,” Hope Miller-Drye, administrative and board assistant, added in an email.

“Stanly County Schools will provide meals to all students at no cost via regular bus routes for all schools and drive through at designated locations throughout the district,” Miller-Drye said. “These drive through locations are determined by USDA guidelines of area eligibility. Additional information and details concerning the meal plan provided by our child nutrition department will be forthcoming as we start this service and work to refine the process in the next days and/or weeks.”

James said these meals are available to all students in the county. Meals for Monday’s lunch and Tuesday’s breakfast are to be delivered Monday.

“We’re able to feed all kids, no matter if you are on free or reduced lunches or not,” James said. He also said SCS was preparing to handle a greater need for meals, including for home school and other students.

Around 4,600 meals are served daily currently. The state is helping the system work to meet a higher demand.

Two options are available for receiving meals, Miller-Drye added.

One option has the bus delivering meals between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at normally-scheduled stops. Students can come to a bus stop to pick up a meal.

“A school messenger will be sent when the school route begins, and Here Comes the Bus app can be utilized for more exact times,” Miller-Drye said.

Another option allows for drive-thru options, determined by the USDA guidelines, at East Albemarle, Central, Badin, Albemarle High, Albemarle Middle, South Stanly Middle and Stanfield schools. These locations will operate 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday to Friday in the schools’ car rider line, except Badin’s will be in the back parking lot on Boyden Street.

As for learning, James credited K-5 schools with being ahead on virtual preparations. He said there are many options for virtual learning for 6-12 grades.

Middle school teachers, James said, were at several schools Saturday putting together learning kits for students who do not have computers.

“We’ll work with the community to make sure we’re doing our part,” James said. “Our goal is not to have students lose two or three weeks of learning.”

In addition to closing K-12 public schools for two weeks, Cooper’s executive order put a halt to mass gatherings of more than 100 people.

“Several school districts have already made this decision and others are considering closures. Many parents are choosing to keep their children home from school. We need a statewide response and statewide action,” Cooper said. “These measures will also be tough on working parents and children who get their meals at school. We are working on efforts to deal with these challenges, from changes to unemployment insurance to special funding from the state and federal government to help get us through this.”

Mark Jewell, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, issued a statement after Cooper’s executive order requiring the temporary closure of North Carolina public schools.

“We appreciate Governor Cooper’s careful consideration of all the impacts a statewide closure of our public school system would have on educators, students, parents, and the wider community,” Jewell said. “Ultimately, we think this is the correct decision, and we thank him for acting decisively in the best interest of everyone involved.”

Christ the King Christian Academy in New London remained open Monday.

We have checked with the Division of Non-Public Instruction of the NC Department of Education, who gives us our guidelines for operating,” Tari Parsons, school secretary, said in an email. “The Governor’s mandate covers the public school system, not private schools. We perceive no imminent threat in Stanly County or the immediate vicinity to warrant a closing of the school. If that situation changes, we may choose to do otherwise. In the meantime, we will remain open.”

Gray Stone Day School and Carolina Christian School in Locust will also be closed during this order.

Carolina Christian School has made the move to use a distance learning format from Tuesday through March 27. Students will be allowed from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday to visit the school to gather their prepared distance learning materials.

“We have communicated with students and families our distance learning format by grade level, and our faculty have been working tirelessly on the preparation of the student materials,” said Jessica Hinson, director of admissions and marketing for the school. “Spring Break will be moved to the week of March 29 if prolonged school closure is necessary.”

Gray Stone had an optional teacher workday Monday and one scheduled for Tuesday.
“On Wednesday, we will begin teaching our students through our distance learning platform that we have used for closures due to inclement weather for years,” said Helen Nance, chief administrative officer for the school. “We are adding some digital enhancements to our program to allow students to actually talk with teachers and classmates online during instruction.”
Events and travel have been canceled or postponed for Gray Stone.
“Although this is an unprecedented event in our history, it can provide opportunities for finding ways to better serve our children whether it is here in our area or nationally. It will be interesting to see what new ideas come from this journey. History has shown that many improvements in our lives come from extraordinary events.”