By Nathan Ham
Following Governor Roy Cooper’s announcement on Tuesday afternoon that all North Carolina K-12 public schools would open under what has been called Plan B with 50 percent school building capacity and required face coverings, Watauga County Schools unveiled their “2×3 Schedule” for how they will begin the year.
“Since the governor made the announcement that schools will open on Plan B, we’ve been working to prepare Watauga-specific information for staff, teachers and parents. We will be opening on what we’re calling our 2×3 schedule with significant social distancing and cleaning protocols,” said Garret Price, the Director of Communications for Watauga County Schools.
The 2×3 Schedule is designed to allow half of the students to attend school on Monday and Tuesday while the other half will attend on Thursday and Friday. Price said that Wednesday will be a remote learning day for all students.
“In total, all students have three days of remote learning at home each week,” Price added. “By the end of his week, we will have much more details.”
During Tuesday’s announcement, Governor Cooper was focused on the safety of children, faculty, and staff as COVID-19 positive cases have been on a steady increase over the last 30 days in North Carolina.
“The most important opening is that of our classroom doors. Our schools provide more than academics; they are vital to our children’s’ health, safety, and emotional development,” said Governor Cooper. “This is a difficult time for families with hard choices on every side. I am committed to working together to ensure our students and educators are as safe as possible and that children have opportunities to learn in the way that is best for them and their families.”
Eric Davis, the Chairman of the State Board of Education, agreed with cooper and the numerous health experts on the Coronavirus Taskforce that being able to open schools safely is the number one key.
“Educators and stakeholders across our state have worked tirelessly to reopen our school buildings safely for our students, teachers, and staff. Today, we take another critical step towards that goal. We also know families need to choose the option that is best for their children, so all school districts will provide remote learning options,” said Davis.
What Happens Under Plan B?
Under Plan B, schools are required to follow key safety measures that include:
- Require face coverings for all teachers and students K-12
- Limit the total number of students, staff, and visitors within a school building to the extent necessary to ensure 6 feet distance can be maintained when students/staff will be stationary
- Conduct symptom screening, including temperature checks
- Establish a process and dedicated space for people who are ill to isolate and have transportation plans for ill students
- Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in the school and transportation vehicles regularly
- Require frequent hand washing throughout the school day and provide hand sanitizer at entrances and in every classroom
- Discontinue activities that bring together large groups
- Limit nonessential visitors and activities involving external groups
- Discontinue use of self-service food or beverage distribution
In addition, schools are strongly recommended to follow additional safety measures that include:
- Designate hallways and entrance/exit doors as one-way
- Keep students and teachers in small groups that stay together as much as possible
- Have meals delivered to the classroom or have students bring food back to the classroom if social distancing is not possible in the cafeteria
- Discontinue activities that bring together large groups
- Place physical barriers such as plexiglass at reception desks and similar areas
What Others Are Saying
Dr. Mandy Cohen, NCHDDS Secretary: “After looking at the current scientific evidence and weighing the risks and benefits, we have decided to move forward with today’s balanced, flexible approach which allows for in-person instruction as long as key safety requirements are in place in addition to remote learning options. “We will continue to follow the science and data and update recommendations as needed. We ask every North Carolinian to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 and follow the three W’s: Wear a face covering when in public, Wait 6 feet apart, Wash your hands.”
Dr. Theresa Flynn, Board of Directors for the North Carolina Pediatric Society: “In-person education is important for children, and it happens in the context of a community. This plan strikes the right balance between health and safety and the benefits of having children learn in the classroom. We must all continue with proven measures to reduce COVID-19 transmission like wearing a face covering, keeping distance between people, and frequent hand and surface cleanings so we can move closer to safely re-opening public schools.”
Katherine Joyce, North Carolina Association of School Administrators Executive Director: “While all school re-entry plans have their challenges during this pandemic, our superintendents, principals, and other school leaders will continue to prioritize student and staff safety in reopening schools under the cautious parameters outlined today by the Governor. We look forward to continuing work with the Governor, the General Assembly, and other state leaders to ensure our schools have the support needed to get student learning back on track in the safest manner possible in each local district.”
Brenda Stephens, President of the North Carolina School Board Association: “I recognize Governor Cooper faced a very difficult decision. The good news is that local school boards can now begin to officially put their school reopening plans in motion. While the current situation may not be ideal for all, I’m confident North Carolina’s educators will continue to provide students with the best education possible.”