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Currituck Board of Ed looks at reopening schools

Meeting at the JP Knapp Professional Learning Center September 21, Currituck County Board of Education members discussed reopening schools to students in mid-October.

Basically a warm-up session for the board’s October 6 regular meeting, Currituck School Superintendent Matt Lutz explained that in light of a Sept. 17 announcement by Gov. Roy Cooper, it will be possible for K-5 schools to open under Plan A.

Since mid-March, in order to slow the spread of COVID-19, Currituck students have been getting school instructions through online classes only, as have most North Carolina school students.

Plan A has the least restrictive social distancing requirements and no campus capacity limits. Plan B has moderate social distancing restrictions with limits on the number of students who can ride school buses and be on campus. Plan C is online classes only.

Although districts can reopen elementary schools for full-time, daily, in-person instruction starting Oct. 5, Lutz said Plan A had not previously been on the table and there are a number of logistics that need to be worked out.

Covering transportation, classroom sizes, health protocols, regular staffing and substitutes, Lutz said he is recommending October 19 as the opening date. It also marks the beginning of the next nine week grading period.

In order for schools to be ready, Lutz said staffing will be a major concern to ensure there are enough teachers for in person instruction and online classes. He went on to say he does not have a definite number, but there may be more than a dozen teachers not returning, the majority at the secondary level.

In addition to regular and online teachers, more substitutes will be needed. That led to a discussion on recruiting retired teachers to fill in as subs.

Also a concern is that some current COVID protocols will still be in place, such as the guideline that masks will still be required.

Transportation was also discussed at length. With loosened protocols, more students per bus will now be allowed, but still not the maximum three per seat of 72 elementary students per bus as in the past. Temperature checks will also be required before students may board a bus, which may require an additional adult to make those health checks.

Even if parents elect to transport their children to school, the health checks will be done at the school before parents can drive off.

Another discussion focused on classroom cleaning, typically done by teachers.

Lutz added that information from the governor’s office only pertains to pre-k through 5th grade, but he is monitoring any updated guidance and additional information.

Currently :
– Masks will still be required for students and staff in school.
– Social distancing will be encouraged.
– Health screenings will still be required prior to using transportation or entering schools.
– Transportation will be encouraged to operate under Plan B (to ensure density reduction in a more confined space).

A separate statement from North Carolina School Superintendent Mark Johnson said in part:

“The option for remote learning remains in place for families who may not yet feel comfortable returning to schools. But we need to open our schools for students, teachers, and parents who are ready to return.

We all want all schools for all ages open as soon as possible. Pursuing Plan A for all elementary schools and Plan B for all middle schools and high schools is a good step in the right direction. As always, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction stands ready to work with local school leaders to return to class.”

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