DOBSON — County school children will return to school on a mixed basis, following a vote by the school board this week.
The Surry County Board of Education held its regular monthly meeting in Dobson with members choosing to move to Surry County Schools’ Plan B starting a week from Monday.
Back over the summer, the state told every school district to come up with three plans to return to school: one with fully distance learning, such as schools were doing back in the late spring; one with a full return to class instruction and all that would be required for safety; and one with a blended approach, allowing some in-class and some at-home instruction.
“Plan B is a return to learn in a blended/hybrid model with a combination of some face-to-face instruction with limited density in school buildings with enhanced health and safety protocols and some remote instruction,” said Dr. Tracey Lewis, director of communication.
“My team and I have taken time for extensive and essential planning for a safe and healthy Return to Learn Plan B blended/hybrid instructional model,” said Dr. Travis Reeves, county superintendent. “As we prepare for students to return to campuses on Sept. 21, health and safety for our students and staff remain our top priority.”
“Enhanced health and safety protocols will be implemented on all school campuses to provide safe spaces and safe schools. Cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting protocols will be followed per the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services safety guidelines. These guidelines include detailed cleaning protocols and additional custodial staff to conduct daily cleaning and additional cleaning nightly and weekly.”
Schools aren’t large enough to house all students at once and still follow state distance and capacity guidelines.
“Classrooms are capped to ensure adherence to social distancing guidelines established by the local Surry County Health and Nutrition Center and NCDHHS,” said Reeves. “All students in grades K-12 will be divided into four cohort groups: A1, A2, B1, and B2. The school will notify parents of which cohort their child is assigned to.
“We have made the decision to stagger students as they return to school buildings over two weeks, from Sept. 21 through Oct. 2. Teachers and administrators will use this time to personalize interactions with all students and to teach small groups of students the expectations for keeping themselves and others safe.”
A form must be filled out by parents attesting that children are healthy before the students can return to school.
Also, Reeves added, “temperature checks will be conducted before any person enters a school building or boards a school bus.”
“Students and staff are required to follow the 3 Ws: wear a face-covering/ mask, wait 6 feet apart to practice social distancing, and wash hands frequently. Additionally, hand sanitizer will be provided for students and staff to use while on campus.”
Surry County Schools’ Plan B was vetted and endorsed by local health experts, noted school officials, as well as the Teacher Advisory and Parent Advisory councils the superintendent formed years ago.
School board members and Dr. Reeves visited all 19 school campuses to evaluate health and safety protocols and to talk with teachers and administrators, noted Dr. Lewis.
”During the evaluation phase of the plan, SCS utilized the expertise of many community partners for input and feedback,” she said.
Those community agencies partnering with the district include the Surry County Department of Social Services, N.C. Department of Juvenile Justice, Partners Behavioral Health Management, Northern Regional Hospital, and the county Health and Nutrition Center.
SCS will continue working with the Health and Nutrition Center to contain the spread of COVID-19, said Lewis. These efforts may include moving classrooms for cleaning, sanitizing or disinfecting, and/or recommendations to students and staff to self-isolate and trace their contacts. Timely and accurate information to parents and staff is crucial.
However, the district said such notifications must balance the privacy rights and interests of students and staff under state and federal laws. The district cannot discuss the health status of any specific student or staff member with others, but families will be alerted if a student has had prolonged contact with a positive case.
There is no single response to all cases that occur in school settings. Thus, every response will be based on the unique circumstances of the occurrence of the virus. Everyone is asked to do their part at school and at home.
“Flexibility continues to be our mantra as we navigate these uncharted waters together,” said Lewis.
”As local, state and national health guidance evolves, Surry County Schools reserves the right to make changes to our plan in the best interest of the health and safety of our students and staff. Everyone’s partnership is greatly appreciated as we work together to provide the best educational experience possible for all of our students.“
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.