North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced Sept. 17 that NC Public Schools would be allowed to return to in-person instruction for younger students at full capacity beginning Oct. 5. The Governor recommended that schools implement social distancing measures, but said he will not require it.
Prior to the Governor’s announcement, the Watauga County Board of Education had already begun consideration of a plan that would return Watauga County students in Kindergarten through third grade to in-person instruction on the district’s Plan B 2×3 Flex Schedule beginning October 5.
The local plan under consideration would allow students in all grades to resume in-person learning on the Plan B 2×3 schedule Oct. 19.
In the 2×3 Flex Schedule, half of students will attend school on Monday and Tuesday, while the other half attend on Thursday and Friday. Wednesday would be reserved as a remote learning day for all students. In total, students would have three days of remote learning at home each week.
Significant social distancing, cleaning, hygiene and sanitation protocols would be put in place.
The school board will hold a special called meeting at 5 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 21 to decide on a specific plan to resume in-person learning in Watauga.
Watauga County Schools Superintendent Scott Elliott said the Board of Education’s decision on how and when students would return to school would be made based on local data and in consultation with local health officials.
“We are fortunate to have a close working relationship with AppHeathCare, our local health department,” Elliott said. “Through that partnership, we have access to the best-possible information about how COVID-19 is affecting our community here in Watauga. Local data and local guidance is the most important tool we have in determining how and when our students can return to school safely.”
Elliott said the school board’s plan to begin returning Watauga’s youngest students to school by early October on a 2×3 schedule with reasonable social distancing measures in place was the best next step to ensure that students who benefit most from in-person instruction could get back to school as quickly as possible.
“We want nothing more than to see our students back in schools in person, but we are determined to ensure it’s done safely,” Elliott said. “Just like our decisions to close in-person learning and to implement social distancing measures, our decision to reopen fully must be based wholly on data and science that supports its safety.”
Elliott said he was encouraged that state officials felt that health metrics were moving in the right direction and school districts were being given more flexibility to make reopening decisions locally, but he asked that staff, students, and parents continue their diligence regarding social distancing and other preventative measures.
“We all must work together to keep our community healthy and to return our students safely to school,” Elliott said. “Please continue to be diligent in wearing face coverings while at school and while out in public, maintaining physical distance whenever possible, and taking care of yourselves by regularly washing your hands and monitoring for symptoms.”