Stanly County Schools approves plan for reopening school

Published 10:48 pm Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Following on the governor’s decision for local education agencies (LEAs) to use Plan B for schools in the fall, Stanly County Schools approved a plan for schools to reopen at a specially called meeting Tuesday night.

Interim superintendent Vicki Calvert noted plans made by staff included feedback from parents, students and teachers.

Students in grades kindergarten through fourth grade will continue to get daily face-to-face instruction with fifth grade students moving over to the middle school facilities.

Dr. Amy Blake-Lewis, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said moving the fifth graders “was a tough decision to make.” She said the capacity and space available, along with social distancing by moving the fifth grade to middle school facilities, would allow the elementary schools to operate every day.

In grades 5-8, students will go on a rotation of one week in the classroom and the following week remote learning.

High school students will be on a three-week rotation in school for one week and remote learning for the next two weeks.

Parents who are uncomfortable with their children being in school may choose remote learning at any level.

Student groupings will have a reduced capacity, with the fifth graders going to middle school. Elementary and middle-school students will remain in the same room, with teachers rotating as required, while high school students will change classes and be monitored for social distancing.

Elementary schools will continue to run on the staggered times as approved last year while middle school students will be at school when in person from 7:55 a.m. to 1:20 p.m. High schoolers will stay an additional 15 minutes.

Middle school students will have daily health checks and will have lunch delivered to their classrooms. Students on remote learning will participate in a Google Meet online meeting once a week for each core subject from 1:30-2:30 p.m.

On the high-school side, students will arrive and have a daily health-check in, then have instructional blocks from 7:55 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Fourth block, starting at 11:40 a.m., will also include lunch.

High school teachers will have Google Meet check-in sessions with remote learners from 1:45-2:45 p.m. once a week for each block, with teachers having office hours every day from 2:45 to 3:30 p.m.

Schedules for the Stanly Early College, the Stanly Academy Learning Center and the Stanly STEM Early College have not yet been determined.

“Just keep in mind everything we share with you tonight is subject to change based on the guidelines given to us,” Calvert said.

Blake-Lewis said she and the staff “feel very confident this plan…which is that hybrid between remote and face-to-face, for our students is the best plan that took all of those things into consideration” referring in part to parent surveys from last year. She added she did not know how the students would be split up into groups but hoped the answer to that would be determined in the next two weeks.

When asked by Chairman Melvin Poole about students wanting to be at school in person with people in their own grade level, Blake-Lewis said with the way students sign up for classes, there is a “high likelihood” it will happen.

Blake-Lewis added middle-school students would have breaks and be able to go outside at some point in the day.

After the first semester, restrictions may be eased depending on guidelines released at that time. Students who started the year learning remotely may be able to go into face-to-face learning at the semester break but likely not before due to capacity restrictions, especially at the elementary levels, according to Blake-Lewis. Students would be able at any time to go from face-to-face to remote learning.

Students, Blake-Lewis said, would not go without contract with the teacher for more than two weeks or a week at a time.

Calvert clarified an earlier statement made to The Stanly News & Press with regards to students and staff wearing masks. She previously said all students and staff would need to wear masks, but once at their seats socially distanced they would be able to take the mask off.

She said that assertion was based on the governor’s orders at the time. After consulting legal advice and concerns came in from staff and community, the policy moving forward will be adjusted.

“All students, all staff, all visitors will be expected to wear a mask inside and outside unless there is an exception listed by (North Carolina Dept. of Health and Human Services),” Calvert said.

The interim superintendent added DHHS recommends LEAs building in time in the school day “when students, teachers and staff can take short breaks from wearing cloth face coverings at times when the risk is lower” like being outside, for example.

Board member Anthony Graves expressed concerns about the sizes of masks to be provided by the state. Beverly Pennington, director of student services and athletics, said the state will be providing five cloth masks per student and five for each adult.

“I would hope the state would take into consideration varying face size,” Pennington said.

Graves also said he was concerned about students being taught by teachers in masks in terms of what students will see and how teachers’ voices will be perceived.

“Clearly, the governor has not thought this thing through,” Graves said.

Pennington said SCS will have a supply of clear masks for hearing-impaired students and staff who work with them.

Parents of students will be responsible for washing student masks.

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored twice by the North Carolina Press Association.

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