Back to School: Will schools go fully remote if COVID-19 cases surge? Hear what NC, SC schools have to say

Published: Aug. 3, 2021 at 7:02 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 15, 2021 at 11:08 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Schools across the Carolinas are preparing for full-in-person learning five days a week.

Both states are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, schools leaders say they are following COVID-19 safety guidelines for students and staff along with guidance from NCDHHS or SCDHEC.

Unlike last school year, school districts do not have the flexibility to switch back and forth from full remote, to hybrid, or in-person learning, instead, they must follow the direction of the respective state board of education.

Each school district’s plans for virtual academies, masks, and in-person learning are listed below.

Alexander County Schools (First Day of School - Aug. 23, 2021)

  • Online academy is available, and students are enrolled.
  • Masks are optional

Anson County Schools (First Day of School - Aug. 16, 2021)

  • Masks are required

“The Anson County School District is constantly reviewing data, state guidance, and recommendations for addressing COVID-19,” a spokesperson from the district said.

Ashe County Schools (First Day of School - Aug. 16, 2021)

  • Masks are optional

Avery County Schools (First Day of School - Aug. 16, 2021)

  • Masks are optional

“We do have the pre-existing Remote Instruction Plan that is available in the event of inclement weather or emergencies requiring schools to be closed,” said Superintendent Dr. Dan Brigman said. “Remote instruction is very challenging for staff and students, particularly in our area where online access (Internet) is inconsistent. Therefore, our prayer is for a school year that is interrupted due to COVID-19, influenza, or other viruses.

Burke County Schools (First Day of School - Aug. 23, 2021)

  • Burke County Board of Education voted to make face coverings optional for all staff, students, and visitors on BCPS campuses.

“Like our plan last school year, we will follow Executive Orders from the Governor’s Office and consider guidance from the StrongSchoolNC Public Health Toolkit and local health officials related to COVID-19′s impact on our schools,” said Superintendent Dr. Mike Swan. “Last year we operated in various plans of in-person and remote learning, depending on the circumstance, and are prepared should we have to do that again this year. Our students all have take-home devices, our teachers are more prepared to lead remote instruction and we have, thanks to community donations, hot spots to help with internet connectivity.”

Cabarrus County Schools (First Day of School - Aug. 23, 2021)

  • Cabarrus County Schools vote for optional masks in return to the classroom
  • Masks are optional inside schools, required on buses

“Cabarrus County Schools’ goal is for our students to learn in-person for the 2021-2022 school year. As we have throughout the pandemic, we will continue to follow guidance outlined in the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit, as well as recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” a spokesperson from the district said. “We also will continue to work with our partners at Cabarrus Health Alliance. Should public health conditions require us to return to remote learning, the district will follow the model implemented during the 2020-2021 school year.”

Caldwell County Schools (First Day of School - Aug. 23, 2021)

“If the threat of COVID changes dramatically - sustained spikes in cases and hospitalization, etc., - we will be prepared to follow all directives from the Governor’s office in the delivery of instruction,” a spokesperson from the district said. “Presently, we are admonished to provide in-person learning. However, we continue to communicate with our local health officials on a regular basis and seek input from our community.”

Catawba County Schools (First Day of School - Aug. 23, 2021)

  • Masks are optional

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (First Day of School - Aug. 26, 2021)

Cleveland County Schools (First Day of School - Aug. 23, 2021)

Gaston County Schools (First Day of School - Aug. 23, 2021)

  • Masks are optional

“When there is a quarantine situation or a classroom/school closure because of COVID-19, students/teachers will use the Canvas and Schoology learning management systems for assignments/coursework,” a spokesperson from the district said. “These programs were used last year so students/teachers are familiar with them.”

Hickory Public Schools (First Day of School - Aug. 23, 2021)

A spokesperson from the school district says if they needed to go fully remote, they will follow the plans from last year.

Iredell-Statesville Schools (First Day of School - Aug. 23, 2021)

  • Masks are optional
  • I-SS Virtual Academy for grades K-12 is available for students who want to participate in 100% remote learning

Kannapolis City Schools (First Day of School - Aug. 23, 2021)

  • Kannapolis City Schools reversed their decision and are making masks required for students, staff and visitors in the schools.

“At this time, KCS is planning to return to in-person instruction, five days per week, beginning August 23rd. There are no remote learning cohorts planned for 2021-2022,” a spokesperson from the district said.

“KCS utilized several hybrid models of in-person and remote instruction during the last school year and we are prepared to return to an appropriate form of those if it becomes necessary during the upcoming school year, depending on the circumstances,” the district said.

Lincoln County Schools (First Day of School - Aug. 23, 2021)

  • Masks are optional

Mooresville-Graded School District (First Day of School - Aug. 2, 2021)

  • Mooresville School District votes to make masks optional
  • Remote learning option is available
  • Masks will be optional in school buildings but required on school buses. If at any point the county or schools in the district meet certain COVID-19 thresholds, school officials say masking will be required depending on the situation.

Newton-Conover Schools (First Day of School - Aug. 23, 2021)

  • Masks optional for students and staff inside of buildings
  • Face masks/coverings still required on school transportation

Richmond County Schools (First Day of School - Aug. 23, 2021)

  • RCS will follow the state-level guidance concerning masks, social distancing, and other health and safety protocols. As these guidelines are updated at the state level, RCS will make adjustments.
  • RCS will offer an asynchronous remote learning option for students with a documented medical reason.

Rowan-Salisbury Schools (First Day of School - Aug. 11, 2021)

  • Students will have the option of attending Summit Virtual Academy, which opened in 2020.
  • Masks will be optional for students and staff

Stanly County Schools (First Day of School - Aug. 23, 2021)

Under the new policy, face coverings are now required for all students and staff until the percent positive rate for tests falls below 7.9 percent for a consecutive two-week period. After that, students will not be required to wear masks.

Union County Schools (First Day of School - Aug. 23, 2021)

Watauga County Schools (First Day of School - Aug. 16, 2021)

South Carolina schools in WBTV-viewing area (First Day of School - Aug. 16, 2021)

S.C. health officials release COVID-19 guidance for upcoming school year (NOTE: SC law forbids mask requirements in public schools)

Chester County Schools

  • The district will provide an updated virtual option for those students who meet the minimum requirements. Further information can be obtained at website:
  • The district will continue to utilize all safety measures outlined in current CDC and DHEC guidelines. The district will also encourage those who are not vaccinated to continue using masks as an option, in accordance with the latest CDC update.

Chesterfield County Schools

  • Face masks remain optional, but strongly encouraged for students and staff inside buildings and on buses.
  • Visitor access during the instructional day is limited. Face masks are required for visitors.
  • Buses and buildings will be sanitized daily.
  • School staff will continue to isolate students and employees who exhibit symptoms until they can leave the building.
  • Quarantine and isolation procedures remain in place per SC DHEC rules.

Clover School District

  • Clover Virtual Academy remains open for the 2021-22 year as an option for students.
  • District will operate in a tiered, three-level system.
  • Safety protocols will be in place. Additional safety protocols in each level.

Fort Mill Schools

  • Fort Mill Virtual Academy will be offered for grades 3-12.
  • The Fort Mill School District will install Air Guardian air purification systems in all elementary and middle schools beginning in August.

“The Fort Mill School District will have plans in place to address student learning should the district have to transition to virtual learning for individual classrooms, schools or across the district at any point during the school year due to COVID-19,” a representative from the district shared. “The decision to transition to a fully virtual program would be made in conjunction with SC DHEC and the SC Department of Education. Finalized plans for any such transition would largely depend upon what point we are at in the school year, number of schools impacted and requirements in place by our governing agencies at that time.”

Lancaster County Schools

  • A remote learning option will not be offered for the 2021-22 school year but will be offered through the SC State Department of Education.
  • District is still following guidance from CDC and SC DHEC.

“We have lived through the full remote, so we know how to make that work. Our hope/plan is to do everything possible to keep the doors open,” Superintendent Jonathan Phipps said.

Rock Hill Schools

  • The district recommends the use of face coverings for students and staff
  • Schools and facilities using signage and floor markings to remind students of social-distancing practices.
  • Schools will incorporate additional handwashing breaks into the school day and reinforce handwashing during key times throughout the school day.
  • Along with their daily cleaning requirements, the custodial team will increase the frequency of disinfecting surfaces, such as high-touch surfaces in common areas and in all classrooms and athletic areas.
  • Rock Hill Schools will follow SCDHEC and CDC recommendations for contact tracing to determine isolation and quarantine criteria for students and staff.
  • At this time, Rock Hill Schools only participates in diagnostic testing for symptomatic students and staff. All schools provide onsite diagnostic testing conducted by the school nurse using BinaxNOW Antigen tests.
  • Efforts to provide vaccinations to educators, other staff, and students, if eligible.

York District 1

  • Masks will be strongly encouraged
  • Desk shields will be removed, but will remain available for those that desire to use one
  • Parents and visitors will be welcomed back to the schoola; please make arrangements with the school administration
  • Field trips will be allowed
  • Use of the COVID-19 Dashboard to communicate school and district-level COVID-19 positive cases, quarantines, and isolations will continue throughout the 2021-2022 school year.

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