Schools plan to reopen in fall while waiting for guidance from Cooper

Schools plan to reopen in fall while waiting for guidance from Cooper

NORTH CAROLINA — State education and health officials in North Carolina mapped out three options earlier in June for what class will be like for the upcoming school year.

Gov. Roy Cooper was expected to announce Wednesday what schools will look like in North Carolina this fall. However, his office said Tuesday night he will not make an announcement on how statewide K-12 public schools would open.

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There are three options on the table:

  • Plan A: All students would be in school with certain safety measures in place if the number of COVID cases levels out
  • Plan B: Includes moderate social distancing and operating at half capacity with in-person and remote-learning
  • Plan C: Is remote learning only

North Carolina lawmakers just passed two bills aimed to help students, parents and teachers with remote learning.

Among other changes, it provides calendar flexibility for schools and allows for more remote learning if necessary.

NC releases 116-page guidebook on reopening public schools

One of those bills is on the governor’s desk awaiting a signature.

Last week, Channel 9 reported the state will also require staff, visitors as well as middle and high schoolers to wear masks this Fall if they return to the buildings and on the school buses.

Elementary school students won’t have to, although, the state strongly suggests they wear a mask. People with developmental, behavioral or health needs will be exempt from the order.

The state is expected to choose one of the options based on the state’s current COVID-19 numbers. So far, they’ve been trending in the wrong direction, according to health leaders.

Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics came out with a strong statement in favor of bringing children back into the classroom in the fall.

The group cited “mounting evidence” that transmission of the coronavirus in young children is uncommon partly because they are less likely to contract it in the first place.

The pediatrician’s group argues that based on remote learning back in the Spring, it’s likely to result in “severe learning loss and increased social isolation.”

They also warn those impacts are more severe on “black and brown children, as well as low-income children and those with learning disabilities.”

Some school districts across our area have put out surveys to parents gauging everything from whether alternating days or weeks in the classroom would work to how to get students to and from school safely.

Some districts are even offering up new learning options for the fall like Cabarrus County and Gaston County’s “Virtual Academy.”

Concerned parents: “I’m not going to live in fear”

There are many parents who are ready for kids to go back to school.

“I’m not going to live in fear,” parent Jamie Altamirano said. “I’m sorry, but I’m not.”

Altamirano said she worries about her daughter’s social development more than her exposure to COVID-19.

“I think socializing with other kids is very important,” she said. “I don’t think kids should be home-schooled.”

Other parents want to slow down.

“As far as going back to school, I’m kind of iffy about it,” a parent told Channel 9.

Some parents said they are worried about what could happen if virtual learning continues.

“Parents, I’ve got to go back to work but they can’t do it, because the children are out of school,” parent Angela Swan said.

The mother said she also knows children who are falling behind, because they don't have everything to learn at home.

“For them to get held back for something like this, it’s not right for the people who can’t afford computers and stuff,” Swan said.

Mark Drayton has a daughter going into kindergarten but said he isn't quite ready and would like to see some flexibility.

“We should just tread softly, you know?” Drayton said. “Take it one day at a time and see what’s the best possibilities, so we can move forward.”

CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston’s letter to staff on schools reopening:

For weeks, Gov. Roy Cooper said he would lay out the plan to reopen schools Wednesday, but Tuesday night he announced he wouldn’t do that.

He didn’t give a reason and didn’t give a time table for when that decision would come.

It’s a big disappointment for many anxiously awaiting those plans, but the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board of Education is moving forward with a special meeting Wednesday night.

Last month, CMS release a survey to parents and students to gauge how they feel about remote learning. School officials said they will consider those responses as they fine tune their plan.

Here’s a letter Superintendent Winston sent to staff on schools reopening:

“With drive-through and virtual graduation ceremonies completed and the 2019-2020 school year officially closed, we know the question on everyone’s mind is what will school look like when we reopen August 17 to start the 2020-2021 school year.

I have confidence we can and will meet the challenge of opening our schools safely for students and staff and will do so while promoting a learning environment that reflects the high standards of access and equitability to which we are committed. Our district leadership team has worked tirelessly for several months, collaborating with other districts across the state and public health officials to consider several options for reopening school. We have done so with two top priorities – the health and safety of our students, families, and staff; and offering the most robust learning environment possible so that we challenge our students and enable them to grow and succeed.

I could not be prouder of how our staff has come together, challenged norms, and looked for possibilities and opportunities in the face of significant challenges.

And I thank you for your patience and understanding. You pulled together to make the best of a difficult situation when on March 13 we closed our facilities to in-person instruction. You rose to the challenge and enabled our students to continue learning and developing. It’s not easy to see August 17 approaching ever closer on our calendars and await direction from leadership regarding a return to school that we all know will be different than in any beginning of school in our lifetimes. While the logistics of starting the school year might be different than in years past, it is non-negotiable that we uphold our obligation to provide accessible learning opportunities for ALL our students.

I’d like now to give you a sense of the work that has been and continues to be done. Many of you have seen the two sets of guidelines provided by the state of North Carolina. Links are provided here (Lighting Our Way Forward; Strong Schools NC) for those who would like to review. In summary, all school districts throughout North Carolina are required to develop three separate plans, dependent upon the predicted status of COVID-19 in the state when we are to begin the school year August 17.

This week will be active in terms of sharing information. Some general information about the planning process so far will be provided during the Summer Leadership Conference, with CMS principals and district leaders participating virtually today and tomorrow.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper and officials from the NC Dept. of Health and Human Services and NC Dept. of Public Instruction will announce this Wednesday, July 1, which of the three plans school districts should enact for the beginning of school. With that announcement in mind, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education has called a special meeting also happening Wednesday, July 1. During that 7 p.m. meeting, Board members will respond to the state guidance and discuss our path forward for 2020-2021.

Prior to public notification of our selected operational model for 2020-2021 you will receive an update via e-mail.

As you await more detailed information, please review the following general descriptions of the three plans under development by CMS.

  • Plan A is as close to “business as usual” as is possible under current pandemic conditions. Schools would be allowed to reopen close to normally, with all students receiving in-person instruction every day. Of course, this plan includes continuing enhanced safety, sanitation, and hygiene practices put in place in many aspects of our lives during the past several months. And practicing safe social distancing when possible. This plan will be selected only if COVID-19 conditions in North Carolina improve dramatically and the pandemic is under control.
  • Plan B is a hybrid of plans A and C. It will be enacted if state leaders determine that in-classroom learning is safe only if social distancing can be maintained. School districts must plan for no more than 50 percent capacity of classrooms, transportation vehicles, and all facilities. Social distancing of at least six feet between individuals must be enforced. This plan means that not all students will attend in-school learning every day. On days when students do not attend in-classroom instruction, they will participate in remote learning. Transportation, nutrition services, and many other aspects of traditional in-classroom learning are impacted.
  • Plan C is similar to how we operated from March 13 through the close of school, with ll students in a remote learning only environment. Our leaders have collaborated the past several months with experts around the state and country to gain access to the best online learning tools and best practices for implementing remote learning. Our goal, if required to enact this plan, is to make our remote learning more robust and improve educational opportunities for all students. Plan C will be required if cases spike and pandemic conditions worsen to the point that student and staff safety is jeopardized by in-classroom attendance.

Plan B is the most challenging of the plans to develop, with the most moving parts. For this plan, our team has evaluated several options in terms of operating models. We believe we are close to a model that strikes the best possible balance of in-classroom and remote learning, and most importantly enables us to provide best-in-class educational opportunity for students while keeping students and staff safe and healthy. Some details remain to be ironed out, but we are close to being able to provide those details to you, to our students, and to all CMS families.

Thank you again for your patience, your understanding, and your dedication to making CMS the best and safest learning environment for all our students. I assure you more information will be shared with you directly this week. And we will communicate additional details throughout the summer break.”