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Watauga County Schools Receiving Positive Feedback on Fall Semester Reopening Plan

By Nathan Ham

As the old saying goes, you’re not going to make everyone happy. With the first day of school now less than a month away, Watauga County Schools continue to prepare for Plan B of reopening school buildings at 50-percent capacity. They have received a good amount of positive feedback so far. 

“We’ve gotten a great deal of support from parents and community members as we’ve planned our reopening. It’s a community-wide effort to solved a hugely complicated issue that doesn’t have a best-size-fits-all answer,” said Garrett Price, the Director of Communications for Watauga County Schools. “We’ve gotten extremely useful feedback from parents and staff through a number of surveys regarding reopening plans that have been instrumental as we’ve worked out details specific to Watauga.”

The “2×3 Flex Schedule” plan will have half the students at each school attend class on Monday and Tuesday and the other half attend on Thursday and Friday. Wednesday will be a remote learning day for all students, and when the students are not in the school building, they will be participating in remote learning the other two days of the week.

For classes such as physical education where it will be harder to keep children away from each other, any close contact between students during PE activities will be “limited and brief” according to Price.

“To the extent possible, students will have PE on the days they are in school and will take part in activities that limit the use of shared equipment,” added Price.

Bus travel has been a key concern for a lot of parents that have kids that they cannot take to school or are not old enough to drive themselves to school. The school system has already put together a plan for that as well.

“All students kindergarten through 12th grade and all teachers, staff, and adult visitors wear face coverings when they ride the bus. We will have one student per seat and a dedicated bus monitor on each bus that will screen and check students’ temperatures as they board. So far, bus routes have not been affected,” said Price.

Considerations on bus rides will be made to allow siblings to share the same seat.

As for meals at the school, social distancing will be the biggest key.

“When possible, students will eat in classrooms. Students will be allowed to eat in the cafeteria as long as six feet of social distance can be maintained at tables,” says Price. “All students will be served by cafeteria staff — self-service will not be allowed and six feet of distance will be maintained in lines.”

With the creation of the flex schedule, that means that some parents will have to figure out how to provide childcare for their children when they are not in school during the semester. The school system is continuing to develop a plan for that.

“Overwhelmingly, we are hearing that parents want consistency for their children and will need childcare on days when they cannot be in school in person. We are working with local childcare providers to help address those issues ahead of reopening in August,” said Price.

Freshman Orientation

Watauga High School Class of 2024 members will have their freshmen orientation on Thursday, August 13. The schedule for the day will be based on the student’s last name. 

“Freshmen Orientation” will include: 

  • Chromebook pick-up
  • Distribution of schedules and packets
  • Information stations for Bus Transportation, Child Nutrition, and Driver Education  
  • Time to walk around and find classes/meet teachers
    • Tours will be available if needed/requested.

Your health and safety is WHS’s top concern, so please be aware of the following:

  • We are asking that only parents/guardians come with their freshmen to Orientation.
  • Everyone must wear a cloth mask at all times.
  • Temperature scans will be done prior to anyone entering the school.
  • All social distancing guidelines will apply.

The Watauga High School webpage will have a link with additional information about “Freshmen Orientation.”  If you have any specific questions, you may contact Leigh Lyall (lyallkl@wataugaschools.org) or Dr. Susan Mochen (mochens@wataugaschools.org).