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Stanly County Schools continues with reopening plan

As the first day of school on Aug. 17 draws closer, Stanly County Schools continues to work to make sure the reopening will be safe for students and staff as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

While preparing for the upcoming year is like “standing on shifting sand” with all the many guidelines and regulations, “we’re making every effort to prepare for every scenario,” said acting superintendent Vicki Calvert, who, along with several other central office officials, spoke with with The Stanly News & Press.

Calvert revealed that, based on the results of an “Intent to Return” survey filled out by 93 percent of the roughly 8,200 student population, 5,504 students signed up for in-person instruction, while 2,152 signed up for full-time remote instruction.

Under the school system’s hybrid model for reopening, elementary students will attend school five days a week while middle (including fifth graders) and high school students will alternate between weeks of in-person instruction and remote learning. Middle and high schools will be divided into groups based on students’ last names — for middle schools, Group A will be A through J and Group B will be K through Z; for high schools, Group A will be A through G, Group B will be H through O and Group C will be P through Z.

Though each group attend school at least one day the first week, in order to hand out devices and communicate expectations, the rest of the semester will operate on alternating weeks of in-person and remote instruction between the groups.

Student Meals

As part of a federal waiver with the United States Department of Agriculture, all students in Stanly County, and across the country, will eat meals free of charge until at least Aug. 31, according to Mandy Melton, SCS child nutrition director. She said the Department of Public Instruction has asked USDA to extend the program throughout the school year.

Breakfast will be served in grab-and-go bags for students as they enter the school and will be eaten in their classrooms. Lunches will be delivered to each classroom. There will be a set menu each day, which will be posted online, and the lunches will involve one entree, one vegetable and one fruit, Melton said.

Students working remotely can pick up the same lunches and breakfast the next day from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. Monday through Friday at the drive-through community sites located at the four middle schools.

Transportation

A total of 1,766 students have signed up to ride the bus in the morning while 2,289 have signed up to ride the bus in the afternoon, according to results from the “Intent to Return” survey.

Bus drivers and students will be required to wear masks and each bus can only transport one student per seat for a total of 24 students, said Mike Lambert, SCS director of transportation. An exception will be made for students in the same household, who will be allowed to share the same seat.

The buses will be disinfected and deep-cleaned twice a day — at the end of the morning routes and at the end of the afternoon routes — and drivers will be asked to frequently clean frequently touched surfaces such as handrails in between runs. The same number of buses will operate this year as last year, Lambert said, though more routes will likely be added to try and reduce capacity.

Parents are required to fill out the Parent Acknowledgment and Attestation Form if any of their children will ride the bus in any form. The deadline to complete the form is 1 p.m. Aug. 13. They will be required to fill out a form for bus riders every nine weeks, acknowledging their child does not have a fever or has not been exposed to anyone with a positive test.

Safety Protocols

The school system has been meeting with the health department to establish proper safety protocols. Students and staff will go through daily screenings and a temperature check upon arrival to school each morning.

Each school’s nurse will be the point of contact for the health department in terms of reporting students, faculty or staff who have either been exposed, have symptoms or have tested positive. Contact tracing will then occur to figure out who has recently been in contact with those who were infected.

According to state guidance, if someone is exposed to the coronavirus, they should be sent home for 14 days. If someone is diagnosed with no symptoms, they cannot go to school for 10 days since the first positive test.

Students will be divided into small groups based on the size of each classroom, said Todd Bowers, SCS director of facilities and maintenance.

“It will vary based on how many you can put into that classroom and maintain that six feet of social distancing,” he said.

Though desks will be spaced out, students and teachers will be required to wear masks.

Since the virus spreads more easily in indoor settings with poor ventilation, Bowers said older schools will have to open windows to let in outside air while newer schools already have systems in place to recirculate fresh air.

Calvert emphasized the need for the school system to be nimble and willing to adapt, saying that certain scenarios could pop up which might force the system to change plans such as returning to full-time remote learning.

“We all need to do our part to make sure that we mitigate the risks as much as possible,” Calvert said. “We’re going to need everyone working together and everyone doing their part and taking responsibility.

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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