Back to School & Beyond: District-by-district guide to the 2020 school year

Students across N.C. start the 2020-2021 school year

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - There is controversy over sending students back into the classroom this year and not all school districts in our area are following the same plan.

In North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper gave districts the choice between two options. North Carolina schools reopened in August under “Plan B,” allowing both in-person and remote learning.

Most schools in North Carolina reopened on Monday, August 17.

On Sept. 17, Gov. Cooper announced that beginning on October 5, North Carolina public school districts and charter schools could choose to implement Plan A (full-time in-person learning) for elementary schools (grades K-5).

Plan A continues to include important safety measures like face coverings for all students, teachers and staff, social distancing, and symptom screening, but does not require schools to reduce the number of children in the classroom.

Shortly after classes started on Aug. 17, login issues with the state remote learning program NCEdCloud were reported, worrying some that the technology issue could be indicative of what was ahead. The issue was resolved a short time later.

Part 1: Back To School & Beyond, a WBTV Special

WBTV SPECIAL: BACK TO SCHOOL AND BEYOND Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

The “Plan B” approach lets students participate in a mix of in-classroom and remote learning. This plan involves some students potentially rotating schedules, with some students not coming onto campus at all. Schools will also be allowed the option of completely virtual learning, as laid out in North Carolina‘s “Plan C.”

Cooper said this plan is “a measured, balanced approach that will allow children to attend but provide important safety protocols like fewer children in the classroom, social distancing, face masks and more.”

Schools in North Carolina are required to have teachers and students (kindergarten through 12th grade) wear face coverings when they are within six feet of another person, unless an exception applies.

Cooper announced that $95 million in federal funds would be used to help schools across the state with resources, including nurses and counselors. Parents of younger children are also struggling with childcare. Residents looking for a resource for safe and reliable childcare can call 888-600-1685, as recommended by the governor.

For more guidance on North Carolina’s school reopening and safety measures being taken, click here. For frequently asked questions about school reopenings, click here.

In South Carolina, Gov. Henry McMaster called on schools to give parents the choice between remote learning and sending their children back to school five days a week.

“If a parent wants to send their child back to school, they should be able to do so - and do so with confidence,” McMaster said, “If a parent wants to keep a child at home, they should be able to do that, and do it with confidence.”

The State Department of Education directed public schools to submit their completed school reopening plans for review and approval in July.

Students and drivers are expected to wear masks when on school buses in South Carolina in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

NORTH CAROLINA SCHOOLS

After reviewing data, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools changed its course on the district’s reopening plans for the upcoming school year.

CMS started the 2020-21 school year with “Plan C,” a full remote option.

The new reopening plans were voted on by the school board, and it passed unanimously.

Students started remote instruction on Aug. 17, and will continue until it is safe to enter the school buildings and be near their peers, according to CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) had initially planned to follow a Plan B + Remote, meaning students and teachers would meet for in-person learning during the first two weeks of school.

Under the initial PlanB+Remote plan, CMS said 35% of students registered for the Full Remote Academy.

CMS Pre-K students were among the first to transition to in-person learning on October 12.

CMS Pre-K students transition to in-person learning

MECK Pre-K, a voluntary public pre-kindergarten program that allows parent choice based on individual family needs and preferences, started the 2020-2021 school year with in-person instruction.

The Gaston County School Board also voted to reopen in the fall under Plan B, meaning schools reopened with a combination of in-person and remote instruction.

Students were divided into groups. One group attends school on Monday and Tuesday, and the other group attends on Thursday and Friday.

All students engage in remote learning at home on Wednesday and on the weekdays when they are not at school.

Safety requirements:

  • Health screenings: Students and employees will be evaluated as they arrive on campus. Students who don’t feel well or have a high temp will be isolated in a designated area, and the school will contact the student’s parent/guardian. Employees who don’t feel well or have a high temperature will be sent home.
  • Face coverings: Face masks will be required for students and staff.
  • Transportation: Buses will operate at reduced capacity with one person per seat. Family members may share seats. Bus drivers will be screened daily before each route and face masks will be required.

Rowan-Salisbury Schools offered parents an option between a virtual academy or letting children attend school two days week and learn remotely the other three.

For in-person learning, students will be divided into two groups (Group A & Group B). For those choosing the Virtual Academy, there is a K-8 academy and a high school virtual academy. They are treated was separate schools, each with its own principal and staff. Registration for the Virtual Academy has since closed.

Students will attend school face-to-face two days per week and learn remotely three days a week. Wednesdays will be used for cleaning. Accommodations will be made for families with children in different grade spans, students with special needs, or issues related to work schedules,” RSS says.

All students will be provided an iPad for the 2020-2021 school year.

Safety requirements:

  • Health screenings: Staff and parents will complete a health survey daily. Temperature checks will also be performed daily.
  • Face coverings: Face coverings will be will required for everyone. Face covering “breaks” will be built into the schedule.
  • Social distancing: Classrooms have been rearranged to reflect social distancing.

The Cabarrus County Board of Education voted to begin the 2020-21 school year with full remote learning, Plan C.

Cabarrus County Schools said the BOE voted 4-3 on October 5 to send students in grades Pre-K through 3rd Grade to school two days per week for in-person learning. The new schedule is set to go into effect Monday, Oct. 19.

“This decision is a change from the board’s decision on Sept. 21st, which had Pre-K through 3rd grade students returning to in-person learning four days per week,” Cabarrus County Schools said.

The board did not change its decision for in-person learning four days per week for students in EC centralized placement and Occupational Course of Study (OCS) classes.

Beginning Monday, Oct. 19th:

  • Students in grades Pre-K through 12th grade will return to school under Plan B, which is face-to-face instruction two days per week and remote learning three days per week
  • Students in EC centralized placement classes and Occupational Course of Study (OCS) classes will have face-to-face instruction Monday through Thursday and have remote learning on Fridays

Iredell-Statesville Schools are limited to no greater than 50 occupancy and students will have the option between blended learning and virtual learning.

For grades K-8, students whose last name begins with the letter A through M will attend schools on Mondays and Tuesdays and students with a last name that begins with N through Z will attend schools on Thursdays and Fridays. Students will have virtual learning on the three days that they are not on the school campus.

Iredell-Statesville Schools plan to have elementary school students back in the classroom full-time on October 5.

The district says students may be grouped differently based in AIG, EC or ESL status or if they have siblings who have a different last name.

For grades 9-12, students will practice “blended learning” Monday through Friday. High schools will designate days for courses that require in-person learning.

As a result of a recent positive COVID-19 result, all 7th grade students and teachers at Third Creek Middle will begin the year with remote learning.

Safety requirements:

  • Health screenings: Temperature checks and health screenings will be administered each day at school for students and staff.
  • Face coverings: Students and staff are required to wear face coverings.
  • Transportation: Parents are asked to take students to school when they’re able to to avoid increased capacity on buses. Only one student will sit in a seat ubless the students are siblings. Face coverings will be required unless a medical waiver is provided.

Kannapolis City Schools will operate with blended learning and full remote learning options.

Under the blended learning, KCS will be split into two groups

  • Group A: Face-to-face learning on Monday and Tuesday, and remote learning on Wednesday and Thursday.
  • Group B: Remote learning on Monday and Tuesday and face-to-face learning on Wednesday and Thursday.

Friday will be a remote-learning day for all students.

Students learning remotely full-time will use an online platform called Edgenuity, which the district says is a state-approved platform that aligns with the North Carolina standards.

At a Special Meeting of the Kannapolis City Board of Education on Sept. 28, Board members unanimously approved moving KCS Pre-K through Grade 5 students to Plan 'A'.

Under Plan 'A', elementary students may return to face-to-face instruction, five days a week, beginning Monday, November 2.

Families may also continue to choose for their child to remain in the Remote-Only option at this time.

Safety requirements:

  • Health screenings: Temperature checks will be performed upon arrival. Students believed to be ill will be assessed by a nurse and sent home.
  • Face coverings: Face coverings will be will required for those on school buses and school property. Bandanas will not suffice.
  • Social distancing: Social distancing will be practiced and all hallways will be one-way only.
  • Transportation: Those using school transportation must fill out a health attestation. Face coverings will be required.

UNION COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

The Board of Education in Union County voted to implement Plan B for the 2020-2021 school year. Under this plan:

  • UCPS will operate with a 4-day weekly rotation.
  • Schedules will enable a hybrid of in-school and virtual learning plans
  • Students will attend school on Monday – Thursday on their assigned day. When students are not in the school building on their assigned day, they will work in a remote learning environment.
  • Friday will be a remote learning day for all students. This plan will repeat weekly.

UCPS also introduced a virtual option (Plan D) that will be offered to students in grades 2-12. Union County Public Schools says 7,849 students applied for the Plan D Virtual Academy.

The Union County Board of Education has now approved a plan to have a second in-person day per week added on Tuesday, Sept. 29, and moving forward with Plan A in-person learning for K-5 students only on Oct. 26.

The board decided they still would have Friday dedicated to remote learning. So K-5 would only be in-person Monday through Thursday when the change comes.

On Sept. 29, all students in hybrid Plan B will move to either Monday and Tuesday for cohort/group 1, or Wednesday and Thursday for group 2.

Safety requirements:

  • Health screenings: Temperature checks will be performed daily before anyone enters the building. There will be a dedicated space for those who are symptomatic.
  • Face coverings: Face coverings will be will required for those on school buses and school property.
  • Social distancing: Six-foot social distancing will be practiced in classrooms.
  • Transportation: Buses will operate ar a reduced capacity with one person per seat.

Hickory Public Schools students returned through remote-learning August 17 and will continue through September 11. The board will monitor metrics related to COVID-19 as they phase into Plan B, blended learning, which appears to be on September 14. Parents will have the option to keep children in Plan C, full remote learning.

Under Plan B, students will be divided into 2-3 groups.

ANSON COUNTY SCHOOLS

In Anson County, schools will reopen with limited building and bus capacity, and the plan will include a remote learning component. The Anson County School District is looking for community input as they move forward with reopening plans.

The district launched a survey for families.

Stanly County Schools developed a plan to reopen based on the requirements announced by Cooper: Full remote learning or a blended option that includes in-person instruction.

Stanly County Schools parents and guardians are asked to complete the Intent to Return form, which offers the two choices.

Stanly County Schools developed a plan to reopen based on the requirements announced by Cooper: Full remote learning of in-person instruction.
Stanly County Schools developed a plan to reopen based on the requirements announced by Cooper: Full remote learning of in-person instruction. (Source: Stanly County Schools)

Safety requirements:

  • Health screenings: Temperature checks and symptom checks will be performed before anyone enters the building. There will be a dedicated space for those who are symptomatic.
  • Transportation: Temperature checks will also be taken before students board buses.

AVERY COUNTY SCHOOLS

Avery County Schools started on August 17 under Plan B, blended learning, plus a remote option. The deadline for parents to enroll students in the virtual program is August 7.

Safety requirements:

  • Health screenings: Anyone who enters the school will be screened. Screening includes symptom checklist and temperature check. Students must be screened at home before getting on the bus, and again at school.
  • Face coverings: Students and adults are required to wear face coverings when they are, or may be, within 6 feet of someone else. Face coverings will be required on transportation vehicles, inside buildings, or anywhere on school grounds.
  • Transportation: Students must wear face coverings on the bus. Students must also provide the bus driver with their attestation form to ride the bus.

LINCOLN COUNTY SCHOOLS

Students started on August 17 under Plan B in Lincoln County. Parents of high-risk students and families may choose for their child to learn remotely, the district says.

A blended, hybrid model of learning with both in-person and remote learning will be in place. Students in grades K-8 will remain in self contained classrooms for Core Content instruction.

The district will operate with staggered entry at 25% for the first two weeks and approximately 50% during week 3. Students will be divided into 4 cohorts. Open House would occur virtually August 11-13.

The Lincoln County Schools Board of Education has now approved for elementary grades to transition into Plan 'A' beginning October 13.

Starting on Tuesday, Oct. 13, the elementary students will be permitted to attend school in person four days that week, and on October 19, students and staff will transition to a full Plan ‘A,’ five days per week of face-to-face instruction.

Students and families on Plan 'C' would be required to have a medically approved recommendation to continue with remote learning beyond October 19.

Safety requirements:

  • Health screenings: Temperature checks will be performed and there will be daily health attestations.
  • Face coverings: Face coverings will be will required for those on school buses and school property.
  • Transportation: Buses will operate at reduced capacity

ASHE COUNTY SCHOOLS

In Ashe County, grades K-12 will follow a hybrid model which includes both face-to-face instruction and remote learning from home on designated days. About half the student population will be in the building at a given time.

The district is still awaiting guidance from the state before a decision is made about preschool programs.

Click here for more on Plan C, remote learning.

Safety requirements: Ashe County Schools will follow requirements for the state as outlined in StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit

  • Health screenings: Temperatures will be taken at drop off
  • Face coverings: All K-12 students, teachers and staff must wear an approved face covering on buses or school transportation vehicles, inside buildings and anywhere on school grounds including outside.
  • Social distancing: Students must follow 6-feet social distancing requirements
  • Transportation: Buses will operate at reduced reduced capacity with one person per seat (family members can share). Hand sanitizer will be provided.

In Catawba County, students may opt for a full remote learning option or the state’s Plan B, a mix of in-person and virtual learning.

Parents will need to complete a “Student Intent Form” for each student by August 1, the district says, which will provide information on learning choice and whether children will need bus transportation.

Safety requirements:

  • Health screenings: Students will receive temperature and symptom monitoring each morning before getting out of the car-rider lane, in the parking lot before entering a high school, or before entering the building after arriving by bus. Students will also be asked about symptoms. Faculty doing the checks will wear PPE. Parents will be required to stay at school until health checks are complete.
  • Face coverings: Face coverings will be required unless the person is eating or drinking, or more than 6 feet away from someone else. “Mask breaks” will also take place throughout the day if/when it’s safe to do so.
  • Social distancing: Social distancing will be followed and desks will be spaced six feet apart.
  • Transportation: Only 24 students will be placed on a 72 passenger bus, and 22 students will be on a 66 passenger bus. Face coverings will be required. Only one passenger will be allowed per seat unless the passengers are family members. Attestation forms will be required.

Caldwell County’s Board of Education approved a blended education model, consisting of in-person instruction combined with remote learning. Parents may opt for full remote learning in grades K-12.

Students who choose Caldwell Connect will participate in a real-time, whole group learning environment taught by Caldwell County Schools’ teachers, the district says. Students who choose this option will not report to a school building for instruction.

To participate in the remote option, students and families will need to register online by July 31.

“Students enrolled in a traditional high school will be assigned an A or B group and will attend four class periods each day on their assigned days. Cooperative Innovative High School settings for grades 9 through 13 (Early College High School and Caldwell Applied Sciences Academy) will participate in a hybrid model including both face to face instruction and remote instruction. Students will attend school two days a week and then work remotely three days each week,” Caldwell County Schools says.

At a special session held Sept. 29, the Caldwell County Board of Education approved the state’s Plan A reopening format for elementary schools (grades K-5) starting on Monday, Oct. 19, the first day of the second 9-week grading period.

Even though all students in grades K-5 may return to school at the same time, schools will require health screenings, face coverings, frequent hand washing, and social distancing as often as feasibly possible. Students may continue to opt for full remote learning through Caldwell Connect.

Elementary schools will continue designating Wednesdays as a remote day for students through October. This day is also used for staff development and teacher office hours.

In November, students in grades K-5 will attend school five days a week through the end of the second nine-week grading period, which ends on Dec. 18. Students in grades 6-12 will continue on Plan B - AA/BB schedule.

All students in grades K-12 have the option to participate in Caldwell Connect - the full remote learning platform.

Safety requirements: Caldwell County Schools will follow requirements for the state as outlined in StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit.

  • Health screenings: · Everyone will be monitored for symptoms before entering the building, will be required to answer a set of questions and will have their temperature checked.
  • Face coverings: Face covering must be worn inside buildings, buses or anywhere on school grounds.
  • Social distancing: Students will be six feet apart in classrooms. Floors will be marked and hallways will be designated as one-way.
  • Transportation: Face masks will be required. One person will be allowed in each seat except for siblings or those who live in the same house. Buses will be sanitized after each run.

WATAUGA COUNTY SCHOOLS

Watauga County Schools will start the 2020-2021 school year with nine weeks of remote learning with a “modified Plan B” aimed to safely phase back into school.

School officials first announced that students would return under a 2x3 Flex plan, where students would attend school in person for two days and then be schooled remotely for three days.

Students in Kindergarten through 12th grade on the 2x3 Flex plan will start the school year fully remote on August 17. District officials say students will return for in-person instruction under Plan B of the 2x3 Flex Plan on October 19, if conditions allow.

School personnel will contact families who applied for the Watauga Virtual Academy (WVA) to make sure they still want to move forward with that option.

Cleveland County Schools is operating under Plan B, a blended method of in-person and remote learning. Schools will break children into two separate groups: Group A and Group B. Group A will attend class for in-person instruction on Monday and Tuesday and will learn remotely Wednesday through Friday. Group B will learn remotely Monday through Wednesday and will attend in-person learning on Thursday and Friday.

Parents also have the option to enroll children in full remote learning.

Safety requirements:

  • Health screenings: Temperature checks will be administered once students arrive at school. Symptomatic students will be placed in isolation rooms.
  • Face coverings: Face covering must be worn.
  • Social distancing: Students will be six feet apart.
  • Transportation: Only one student will allowed to sit in a seat unless students share the same household.

Burke County Schools started on Aug. 17 with remote learning. The district, which initially planned to start under Plan B, will now remain in remote planning for the first several weeks of school. The original plan would have had students go to school two days a week, but the plan changed due to the continued rise of COVID-19 cases.

The Burke County Board of Education voted for Burke County Public Schools to operate under remote learning between Aug. 17 and Sept. 11. The decision came during a special called meeting on Monday, July 27.

The Board of Education will revisit the plan before Sept. 14.

SOUTH CAROLINA SCHOOLS

Fort Mill Schools are offering 2 choices to students as school starts back on August 31:

  1. A full return of students to face-to-face learning, five days a week.
  2. A full virtual option (Fort Mill Virtual Academy) for those that choose not to return to face-to-face learning.

Elementary school students will return to class following the Family Model with an A/B model schedule for the first four weeks of school (August 31–September 25). Parents will have the option to register for the Fort Mill Virtual Academy or return for in-person learning. The registration period ended on July 17.

Dr. Chuck Epps announced that it is the Fort Mill School District’s intention to return to five days of face-to-face learning for high school and middle school students at the beginning of the second semester starting on January 26.

All high school students will be asked to declare their intention to attend class in person or virtually for the second semester.

The window for declaring this choice will be open from October 23 to November 6 to allow for class scheduling.

More information about the declaration process will be provided to parents prior to the opening of the window.

Middle and elementary school students enrolled in the Fort Mill Virtual Academy will remain in the virtual program for the remainder of the year as previously announced.

Face coverings will be required for students and staff returning for in-person learning in Fort Mill.

The learning options for Rock Hill Schools students are:

  • A full return of students to face-to-face learning, five days a week.
  • A full virtual option for those that choose not to return to face-to-face learning, which would be available through the Rock Hill Schools Virtual Academy.

Students who choose in-person learning will attend in a C/A/B/A/B model, Rock Hill Schools says. That plan will be published here.

The new calendar pushes the start date for all students to Tuesday, September 8. Pre-K through 8th grade students will participate in LEAP week, August 31 - September 4, in small groups to become more acclimated to the procedures that will be put in place for the year, the district says.

In Chester County, the district will provide two options to parents to choose from for instruction. The options are:

1. A full return of students to face-to-face learning (five days a week)

2. A full virtual option for those that choose not to return to face-to-face learning (Chester County Virtual Academy).

Chester County Schools will start back on September 8, with Pre-K to 8th grade starting LEAP August 20 through August 26.

Chesterfield County Schools is offering a blend of remote learning and in-person learning. The plan varies by grade. Click here to view the back-to-school plan for Chesterfield County.

Teachers and other 190-day employees will return on August 17, and Northeastern Technical College Dual Credit enrolled students will also begin those courses on August 17.

August 24 will be the big day in the county’s schools, with the face-to-face A-B schedule beginning. Elementary and middle school students will take part in the state’s mandatory Learn, Evaluate, Analyze, & Prepare (LEAP) days. In the program, students will be tested and assessed in face-to-face activities. High school students will also begin with regular face-to-face classes at that time.

All high school virtual synchronous classes will begin on August 24.

On August 24 to September 4, virtual school student assessment/orientation/device distribution will take place. Virtual school will begin on September 8.

York School District One created a full-time online learning program to accommodate students who may not be ready to return to face-to-face instruction due to COVID-19 or other concerns. The program will serve students in grades K through 12. The virtual academy will continue to operate using online learning and teaching, regardless of the level of spread of COVID-19, the district says.

Families will enroll their students(s) in the face-to-face setting as determined by the district; Traditional, Hybrid, or Remote. The district and/or school will communicate directly to parents when changes in the student learning model must be initiated.

York School District 1
York School District 1 (Source: York County District One)

CLOVER SCHOOL DISTRICT

The Clover School District is sticking with its originally published back-to-school plan, one that is similar to surrounding districts of Rock Hill and Fort Mill. Students will head back on August 24, with elementary schools starting their A/B schedule on August 31.

The district is offering a three-tiered plan that includes a “Traditional Model, a “Hybrid Model” and an “eLearning Model.”

The Hybrid Model, which will be in place at the beginning of the school year, will put middle and high school students on a blended schedule. The Hybrid Model for this group is called the A/B/“S.E.E.” Model:

  • Half of the students will receive in-person instruction on Monday and Wednesday and the other half will receive in-person instruction on Tuesday and Thursday. Select students will participate in small-group learning on Fridays. Middle school students will start school at 8:30 a.m. and high school students will start at 9 a.m. each day to allow buses to drop off middle school students first and then travel to the high school.

The Hybrid Model for elementary students is called the Family Model:

  • Elementary students will attend school at their regular time (7:30 a.m. – 2:20 p.m.) five days a week. Students will receive all instruction, meals, and related arts in their classrooms. All families who need bus transportation are asked to register for a bus seat. Parents will be sent a link by the district to register.

CSD says they will also offer eLearning to grades PK – 12 “if the spread of the virus forces us to move to back to eLearning for a class, a school, or for the whole district.”

LANCASTER COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT

The Lancaster County School District is offering two learning models for the 2020-21 school year. Those models include a face-to-face A/B schedule and a remote learning A/B schedule.

Students went back on August 31.

After a couple weeks of evaluating the changes, the district made some adjustments that will be effective October 5.

The district says with the A/B schedule, bus riders decreased by 45%. The district is opting to roll back start times for Buford High, Lancaster High and AJ High to 8:50 a.m. and a dismissal at 3:50 p.m. The district is freezing new bus driver hires until schools are operating normally and need the positions.

Click here for bus information and transportation routes.

With the face-to-face model, students will receive on-campus instruction for two days a week and engage in at home learning with teacher support for the remaining three days.

Students in grades 2-12 were issued a device, charger, and case for school and home use, the district says. Students in grades K-1 will utilize paper-and-pencil learning packets and other instructional resources. Students with limited WiFi may access designated school WiFi zones.

As of September 16, the district says they have not met the criteria to return to 5-day a week instruction at this time. “We do remain hopeful that we can in the future but the statistics and threat level needs to improve in our county for that to happen,” the district said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest guidelines heavily emphasize sending students back to school this fall, despite what the CDC described as “mixed evidence about whether returning to school results in increased transmission or outbreaks” of COVID-19. The new guidelines arrived the same day the U.S. surpassed 4 million coronavirus cases.

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