CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Local school districts are making decisions on the next steps on the heels of North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and state lawmakers reaching an agreement on the in-person school reopening bill.
The bill, which was signed into law on March 11, requires all elementary school students to operate under Plan A, full in-person learning. Middle and high schools would have the option to operate under Plan A or Plan B.
“Getting students back into the classroom safely is a shared priority, and this agreement will move more students to in-person instruction while retaining the ability to respond to local emergencies,” Cooper said.
The state House of Representatives gave final legislative approval March 11 to Senate Bill 220 The Reopen Our Schools Act of 2021 requiring Grades K-5 to open full-time for students under ‘Plan A’ in-person instruction.
The governor does have authority to order a closure, restriction or reduction of operations within schools but must only do so on a district-by-district basis.
Any districts that plan to move middle and high school to Plan A must notify the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services beforehand and describe their plan for moving to the plan. The purpose is to provide consultation. NCDHHS will not have the authority to veto this.
Districts in the WBTV viewing area are meeting to weigh their options and vote on the plans for the remainder of the school year.
Districts across North Carolina currently required to open Grades K-5 for in-person learning under Plan A. Now, the conversation turns to middle and high school levels, and moving those students to the same plan under Senate Bill 220.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Cabarrus County Schools have already voted on the measures.
Union, Gaston, Burke, Catawba and Ashe counties met to vote on Monday.
Remote learning still remains an option.
Union County Public Schools voted Monday to move middle and high school students to Plan A beginning April 12, which is the first day after Spring Break and the first day of the final grading period.
Those students will be in the classroom five days a week. The vote passed 7-2.
“This date would allow schools to have adequate time to adjust master schedules and balance class loads if needed, and better operationally prepare to serve larger groups of students.”
Union County elementary students will also be in the classroom five days per week, the school board voted Monday. Previously, elementary students have been in-person four days a week under Plan A since January.
Under Plan A, there is minimal social distancing.
“I feel the kids can return safely back to school for more than two days a week. My eighth-grade son has steadily earned good grades and he has still been able to do so...but I know there is a daily struggle. There is a lack of social interaction, he hasn’t really developed any real friendships, he can barely remember the names of the kids in his class. When you’re in school, there is a built-in structure, when he’s at home, he is in charge of managing his day,” said Union County parent Maria Gonsalves.
Virtual Academy option will remain an option. For any student who wants to stay with remote learning, that option is still offered.
The school board said it will need at least two weeks to prepare to have students in the classroom safely.
Here are some of the health and safety protocols proposed:
- Plan A does not require schools to reduce the number of students in the classroom
- Plan A does not require social distancing on school buses
- UCPS will continue daily symptom and temperature screenings/checks for all students and any person who enter a school building
- Social distancing protocols will be required for anyone who enters school buildings. UCPS will continue to limit visitors to school buildings under Plan A
- Teachers will be fully vaccinated by April 3
- All students must continue to wear face coverings in school and on school buses. All staff must wear face coverings in all school buildings and offices
- UCPS will continue to provide face coverings for students, teachers and staff
- Fridays will be used to clean and sanitize the buildings
Delena Helms has three children in elementary schools and an eighth-grader in Union County Public schools.
“I don’t want to go to Plan A, it terrifies me. He’s asthmatic,” Helms said about her eighth-grader. “I have a 19-month-old son that is asthmatic.”
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools voted to bring students back to the classroom more often. This comes after the North Carolina State Board of Education adopted guidance from state health leaders urging schools to open for in-person learning “to the fullest extent possible” while following health and safety protocols.
CMS will have all elementary school students (K through 5 and K through 8) back for in-person learning four days a week starting March 22 until May 11. Wednesday would be a remote-learning day for all students
Middle school and high school students have been placed into two groups and have in-person learning two days a week, which started March 15 until May 11. Wednesday is a remote-learning day for all. Group A will be going in-person Monday and Tuesday, and Group B will be going in-person Thursday and Friday.
The Cabarrus County Board of Education unanimously approved a plan allowing middle and high school students to attend school four days a week, starting April 13.
Students will now have the option to attend school in Plan A (four days a week in-person with Fridays remote), or Plan C (full remote learning).
Plan B, the hybrid schedule of two days in-person learning and three remote, will no longer be an option.
The Gaston County School Board voted unanimously to bring middle school and high school students back for in-person learning four days per week, beginning April 12.
Students will come to school Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Wednesdays will be remote learning days.
Watauga County’s school board voted on a four-day-a-week plan from in-person learning.
The district will allow middle school and high school students back to the classroom for four days each week starting April 12, the first day after Spring Break.
We are working to find out which days students will be in class and which day will still be remote.
Catawba County Schools are moving to Plan A for middle and high school students, starting April 12.
That means students will be in the classroom four days per week, Monday through Thursday, with Friday being a remote learning day.
The decision was unanimously voted on by the school board.
Staff and students will continue being screened for symptoms before entering our buildings. Face coverings will still be required to be worn by everyone.
There will no longer be any capacity restrictions on our buses for grades 6-12. We highly encourage parents to continue driving their students to and from school, if at all possible.
“By April 12, at least 85% of our certified staff will be fully vaccinated and have reached full immunity according to health recommendations,” the district said.
Ashe County Schools are bringing middle school and high school students back to the classroom starting on March 29.
The plan is for four days each week. Students will be in class Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Wednesday will be a remote learning day.
Rowan County Schools are allowing students back to the classroom for four days a week.
The district voted Monday to move to Plan A.
Students in kindergarten through 5th grade will continue with the current plan to transition to Plan A, four days of face-to-face instruction with Wednesdays designated as remote learning days, on March 29.
Students with an IEP or 504 plan in grades 6-12 will begin Plan A, four days of face-to-face instruction with Wednesdays designated as remote learning days, on April 1.
All remaining students in grades 6-12 will begin Plan A, four days of face-to-face instruction with Wednesdays designated as remote learning days, on April 8.
Students at Summit Virtual Academy will remain enrolled for the remainder of the school year under the one-year commitment agreement.
As kids are going back in-person learning, what does that mean for parents?
“I think it means networking. I think it means building and relying on support systems. I don’t think there’s ever going to be a going back to normal. There’s been significant loss,” said Dr. Michelle Meggs, the executive director of UNC Charlotte’s Women + Girls Research Alliance,
Districts also play a part in helping parents in the change with services such as childcare.
“It’s in addition to being safe from from the virus, right, that there are structures in place so that when kids are there, they have a place to go where they can see their friends, where they could be socially distant where they can go before school and after school for parents who have to work early or who have to stay late their parents know that their kids are going to be okay,” she said.
Women, she says, have taken the brunt of changes.
In the early months of the pandemic, North Carolina state data showed women made up 58 percent of unemployment claims.
“Everyone is trying to do the best that they can. So it’s my hope that employers will absolutely take that in mind as working mothers come back into the labor force, and give them that opportunity, again, even if it’s not the same exact position because we know that in some places the job market has contracted,” she said.
If you’re re-entering the workforce, she says employers should also be willing to help.
“Are we investing in childcare? Are employers offering additional support for that, are we offering parents who are working full time and part time PTO paid time off, are we offering them sick leave,” Meggs said.