By Nathan Ham
School buses were back on the roads and picking up children Monday morning for the first time since March as Watauga County Schools returned kindergarten through third grade students to the classroom in a limited capacity.
“It was certainly nice to see students in schools this morning! Our schools handled our screening and check-in procedures very well. It was good to see the planning we’ve done over the past several weeks put into practice,” said Garrett Price, the Director of Communication for Watauga County Schools. “In-person instruction is most important to our youngest students, so we were very happy to be able to get them back into school safely on our 2×3 Flex Schedule.”
The “2×3 Flex Plan” will see half of the students in classrooms on Mondays and Tuesdays, the other half will be in school on Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays will be used as remote instruction time for all students and will also be used as a day where each school goes through a deep cleaning process. Each day that the students are not in the classroom, they will have remote instruction activities to work on from home.
The Watauga County Board of Education unanimously approved the reopening plan during a meeting held on September 21. If all goes well with the return of K-3 students, students in grades 4-12 will return to the classroom under the same 2×3 flex plan starting on October 19.
Each school will be following the guidelines for social distancing, face coverings, and cleaning processes. Six-feet social distancing will be maintained as much as possible and floors will be marked to indicate appropriate distancing. Large gatherings of students will not be allowed and self-service of food will not be allowed during meals.
Face coverings will be required for all students, faculty, and staff at all times unless a health exception applies, the individual is eating or is engaged in physical activity. Face coverings must also be worn by students and staff on buses, inside school buildings, and outside on school grounds. Exceptions for cloth face coverings may be made for students with serious documented medical conditions that do not allow them to wear a mask. With documentation from a doctor, those students will be permitted to wear a plastic face shield.