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Remote Learning Continues to be a Helpful Tool Dealing with Inclement Weather and COVID-19

By Nathan Ham

The Watauga County School System would like things to be “back to normal” like years past, but for the time being, the addition of remote learning has given the county a useful option for dealing with both COVID-19 infections and days of snowfall in the High Country. 

So far this year, Watauga County Schools have had just one traditional snow day. Three other inclement weather days became fully remote learning days for students and Election Day was used as a fully remote learning day since voters were using numerous school gymnasiums as voting precincts. 

“Typically, on inclement weather remote learning days, as we are calling them, teachers and staff who are able to work from home can choose to do so, though many choose to travel to work if conditions allow,” said Garrett Price, the Director of Communications for Watauga County Schools. “Just like a regular snow day, our primary concern is the safety of our students, teachers and staff as they travel, so remote learning has given us a much higher degree of flexibility on days with bad weather.”

With COVID-19 infections continuing to fluctuate in the High Country and hospitalizations on a steady rise, Watauga County Schools have had to delicately manage the situation mixing in-person education and remote learning. As of right now, the school system will continue with its flex scheduling plan. 

“The (school) board is in constant communication with local health officials to determine the amount of community spread and the risk of COVID transmission in our schools. The board chairman is in communication with our superintendent daily and the entire board gets a detailed update once a week on how COVID is affecting our schools,” said Price. “The board considers community-wide spread, but thanks to constant contact tracing from our school nurses, we also have a great deal of information about how and where transmission might be happening in our schools. There are currently no plans to take action to change the schedule one way or the other, though that possibility remains open to them should numbers and risk dramatically worsen.”

On Monday during the most recent school board meeting, superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott informed the public that school nurses have received training in rapid COVID-19 testing from AppHealthCare so they will be able to administer them at schools if necessary, free of charge, instead of requiring a student, teacher or staff member to schedule an appointment with AppHealthCare or their medical provider.