Charlotte-area school district regularly kept students in classroom despite pandemic - here’s how

Union Co. Public Schools learning through the pandemic

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - For parents and children, it has not been easy navigating learning through the coronavirus pandemic.

But even with the messiness of the year - one Charlotte-area school district hasn’t shied away from having students back in the classroom.

Union County Public Schools took a very different path on having kids back in the classroom, but Superintendent Andrew Houlihan says it wasn’t just about that - it’s also about what’s later on down the line.

Houlihan emphasized that eventually children are going to grow up, and what schools are doing for them now - even in the middle of a pandemic - matters.

“From day one, we were the largest district to offer in-person learning for families. We gave families a choice,” Houlihan said.

Students and families in the school district had a year-long experience that has been much different from other Charlotte-area districts during the pandemic.

“We knew that right out of the gate, there would be some anxieties, some questions from families,” Houlihan said.

Come the start of the school year, the superintendent didn’t shy away from those fears. He says they tackled them head on with a phased approach.

“Number one, that we’ve got correct safety guidelines, number two, that we can pull this off operationally in a safe manner, and number three, that it’s what’s best for our students,” Houlihan said.

Since August, their younger students have been in the classroom at least one day a week.

By the second week of this April, all of their students will be back full time.

A staggering total of 80 percent of students follow the in-person district plans, while the other 20 percent opted for the district’s state-mandated full remote option.

“Learning loss is real and Union County isn’t immune to that. But my hope is that because of the approach we’ve been taking, that we wont see as much of that in Union County Public Schools,” Houlihan said.

This has been a team effort among teachers, parents, school staff and with leadership.

But the superintendent says there is one especially important part to all of this - school nurses.

This is the first year they’ve had a nurse in every one of their 53 schools.

Without them there, the superintendent questions whether or not things would have looked much different this past year.

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