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Dare Board of Ed discusses options for reopening of schools

The Dare County Board of Education convened for a special meeting on June 24. After approving an interim budget resolution allowing the board to operate off of last fiscal year’s budget until a new one is adopted, Superintendent John Farrelly addressed the reopening of schools in the fall.

The senior research team has been studying two documents recently released from the state regarding the reopening of schools: “The StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit (K-12)” and “Lighting Our Way Forward: North Carolina’s Guidance on Reopening K-12 Public Schools.”

Farrelly said the team is looking at a variety of options, but it is “yet to be determined what school looks like in the fall.”

The three main options for the course of education in North Carolina were described by Farrelly as:

– Plan A: Schools reopen in a traditional setting, with social distancing mandates and requirements around transportation, classroom setup, temperature-checking, etc.

– Plan B: Schools operate at 50% capacity. For example, students have a staggered schedule, either alternating days, having half the student body attend early in the school week and the rest later in the school week or alternating weeks, all while incorporating remote learning.

– Plan C: Schools operate on a remote learning platform.

“You would logically think it’s very possible, since the decision was made today, that we’re dealing with Plan B,” Farrelly said. Governor Roy Cooper is set to release updated plans on the reopening of schools within the following week. A decision on what plan is implanted in DCS is up to the state; it will not be a local decision.

Farrelly did note that the district has control over how plans are carried out after one is chosen, while following the guidance of the state. He recommended a meeting with the board take place around the July 10 timeframe to review all options regarding a reopening.

Regardless of the outcome, Farrelly said “building a virtual school is probably a likely lock for us at this point.”

As for the rest of summer, the state has released funds for a “Summer Jumpstart Program,” intended for students entering first through fifth grade.

A recent release from Farrelly highlights the concept: “All students are invited to participate in reading and math instruction before we kickoff the 2020-2021 school year. This virtual program will take place Monday through Thursday beginning August 3, 2020, and will conclude on August 13, 2020.”

There are three virtual learning options:

– Reading Option #1: Students will receive small group instruction with reading, phonics/spelling and writing.

– Reading Option #2: Students will receive direct reading instruction 30 minutes per day with a classroom teacher.

– Math Option: Students will utilize a self-paced math program.

Parents can find out more about this program by contacting Kelly Flora at florake@daretolearn.org.

During the course of the board meeting, Sandy Kinzel, associate superintendent of human resources, asked that immediate action be taken on the following policies: non-school employment, discretionary admission and discretionary admission registration.

Kinzel said that since their last meeting on June 9, staff had to refer to these policies, which she said were “not crystal clear.” As for non-school employment, Kinzel shared that while school staff was working remotely, some were working for other jobs. In an effort to be notified annually at the beginning of the year of employment, Kinzel revised the policy to reflect this.

In terms of the discretionary admission policy, Kinzel wanted to better define consideration for discretionary admission. “In the event that a parent is allowed to have their child attend DCS under tuition and discretionary admission, we expect to receive payment. In some cases, we found that we did not receive total payment and no efforts were made to make payments throughout year,” she stated.

Board member Harvey Hess inquired about the requirement of a financial statement to be included in the discretionary admission application process. “If we’re going to provide county-resident tax money . . . that comes to us to be spent on a student outside of our jurisdiction, shouldn’t we be relatively assured that they can pay?”

Attorney Brian Schwartz felt the request would be better suited to add to the regulation of registration rather than the policy itself, but did believe it was a permissible document to be included.

After discussion, the board voted to waive the second reading of the revised policies and adopt them as presented. The vote was unanimous.

Lastly, the board approved to renew their attorney contract with Schwartz & Shaw, PLLC.

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