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‘It’s to be safe:’ Charlotte charter school takes strict approach to COVID-19 protocols, offers virtual learning for students

UpROAR Leadership Academy is located in North Charlotte and serves 139 students in grades 5-12
Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 6:13 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - COVID-19 is affected school districts left and right, but one local school says they’ve been thankful to avoid an outbreak.

UpROAR Leadership Academy is located in North Charlotte and serves students in grades 5-12. It is a tuition-free charter school.

Founder and director Genesia Newsome says they have a total of 139 students and 14 teachers, with such a small population, anyone positive case can affect the entire school.

To put that in perspective, some grade levels have as few as eight students to as many as 32.

The Strong Schools NC Toolkit says if all children are masked and come into close contact with a positive student, they do not have to quarantine unless they have symptoms or test positive. Newsome says they’ve gone as far as quarantining an entire class or the entirety of high school students as a precaution.

“If a student in the class was diagnosed and we receive the notification and results from the parents then we work closely with the Mecklenburg County Health Department, we go ahead and quarantine that entire class and if teachers were in direct contact with that student as well we quarantine them as well,” Newsome said.

Masks are required for all staff, students, and visitors.

Staff also notify parents through text, email, and phone immediately after learning of a positive case.

“Regardless of how many kids you have it’s just doing what needs to be done in the best interest of them,” Newsome said.

UpROAR is doing in-person learning five days a week but there is a hybrid model available for all students.

“We have a hybrid model as well this year for those families that still are not 100% confident with their scholars coming on-site,” she said.

Middle schoolers Ja’nasia Bennett and Elijah Worley both transferred from CMS last school year at a time where CMS was still remote. They say UpROAR made all the difference by allowing them to learn in person during the entire 2020-2021 school year.

“I learned more and I did better on my tests when I came here and when I was not virtual,” Bennett said.

“It helps me concentrate on what the group is saying and what the teacher is saying,” Worley said.

Newsome says 144 students were enrolled during the 2020-2021 school year and full in-person learning was initially offered to 5-8 graders. She says they had 30 students in grades 5-8 learning in person last school year.

She says they later expanded in-person learning for high schoolers in January after they noticed a need for more assistance due to full remote learning.

Inside the school, you’ll find multiple hand sanitizer stations, extra masks, and six feet markers in the hallway for social distancing. Desks are also spaced out. Newsome says classrooms have a maximum capacity of 10-15 students.

Classrooms, bathrooms, and cafeterias are cleaned multiple times a day. In addition, the entire building is deep cleaned and buses are cleaned multiple times throughout the week.

Thanks to recent legislation public schools can switch to full virtual learning if needed due to COVID-19.

Last month, the governor signed Senate Bill 654 K-12 COVID-19 Provisions, a wide-ranging bill that covers multiple areas concerning schools and provisions related to COVID-19.?

Section IIIA is related to remote instruction for COVID-19 emergencies.

This section of the bill states that school districts will now have the authority to make day-to-day decisions for the 2021-22 school year about shifting in-person schools or classrooms to temporary remote instruction if it’s necessary due to COVID-19 exposures that result in insufficient school personnel or required student quarantines.

“We’re actually putting a plan together to submit to the state by October 1 for a virtual academy,” Newsome said.

Enrollment For the virtual academy is open for fifth through eighth-graders. If you are interested in signing your child up, click here.

Aside from academics, they’re taking advantage of the more in-person time to build on social-emotional wellness and extracurricular activities.

“Really giving them a sense of normalcy,” Newsome said.

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