By Nathan Ham
In a step closer to a full-time return to the classroom for all students in Watauga County, the school board voted to approve a measure to send K-2 students back to the classroom four days a week, beginning March 8 and third grade through fifth grade students back into the classroom four days a week beginning on March 22. The county will still continue to offer remote learning for children and families who feel more comfortable with that instead. The motion was supported unanimously by all five board members.
If all goes well with the four-day school week without any major increases in COVID-19 cases, the next step would be returning all K-5 students to the classroom five days a week.
“I anticipate that if we have the success with our mitigation efforts that we have had all year long that once we have made this transition, I would be prepared at that point to recommend a five day a week schedule,” said superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott.
Students in grades 6-12 will continue on 2×3 Flex Plan with two days in school and three days of remote learning.
Watauga County teachers will also get their first round of the COVID-19 vaccine beginning this Wednesday. According to Jennifer Greene of AppHealthCare, who spoke briefly at Monday’s meeting, a new shipment of the Moderna vaccine arrived Monday morning and will include vaccinations for county teachers.
Parents will be notified of the new classroom attendance changes as soon as possible according to Dr. Elliott.
Board members took time to thank the many parents that have voiced their opinions on how Watauga County Schools should operate moving forward while still dealing with COVID-19.
“I appreciate all of the messages we’ve been getting from parents. It makes me feel good whenever I hear from parents. It lets you know how they feel from their hearts and I really appreciate that and it means a lot,” said board member Steve Combs.
Board chairman Gary Childers said he is grateful for the community support. “They recognize the difficulty of the decisions and recognize the balance that the board is trying to find in terms of doing what is best for children and keeping everybody safe, and providing an education as best as possible.”
The next school board meeting will take place on Monday, March 8.