Normal classroom schedule expected soon but not certain

Full-time in-person classroom instruction for all those that want it appears closer, but not certain, after a vote by the Moore County Board of Education Monday evening. 

The move to a normal schedule could happen sometime around spring break at the beginning of April. But many things have to fall into place before students return to the classroom five days a week. 

A measure authorizing Superintendent Robert Grimesey to implement a plan for students in grades six through 12 is contingent on the relaxation of North Carolina social distancing requirements. The vote was a unanimous vote.

The biggest challenge – classrooms are not big enough to accommodate students while following the 6 feet distancing requirement. Also, there are not enough buses or bus drivers to transport students under the requirement of one student per bench seat.

The return of a normal schedule depends on what happens at the state level. One possibility is that Governor Roy Cooper and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services could reduce the 6 feet spacing requirement for middle and high schools. The other is if the state legislature overrides the governor’s veto last month mandating the return of all school districts to normal schedule.

The social distancing requirements are part of efforts to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. 

Once the go-ahead is given, school administrators will have 15 days to implement their plan for full-time, face-to-face classroom schedules. New bus schedules must be worked out, lesson plans changed and virtual classrooms adjusted.

In mid-February, teachers in North Carolina were given priority for vaccination, regardless of age. Last week, Moore County health officials announced that all teachers and support staff who wanted the coronavirus vaccine have already had their first shot. 

Parents would still have the option of enrolling their children in virtual school. “Our goal is not to force anyone to do something,” board member Robert Levy said, “but it is to give the parents and students a greater degree of choice.”

Currently, students in kindergarten through grade five attend school on a normal schedule. That came back in January. Under the Centers of Disease Control and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, children in this age group are less vulnerable to COVID-19 and can attend face-to-face classes with fewer social distancing requirements than those in grades six-12.

Proponents of returning to a normal school schedule cite studies showing children falling behind academically, while some parents believe that waiting for the fall before the start of school is a better choice.

Recently, three elementary schools in Moore County switched to virtual learning for two weeks because of coronavirus outbreaks. After two weeks, they returned to face-to-face instruction.

In a departure from what has become a normal virtual Zoom session, members held their meeting in the boardroom at the Central Services building. Sitting 6-feet apart, some on separate folding tables and only allowing five visitors inside the large room, the meeting was quick and efficient. 

While the meeting was live-streamed via YouTube, it was plagued with audio problems that made some parts difficult to hear. It was a change compared to the long discussions of previous meetings. 

The public was allowed to make comments via telephone by pre-arranging with district staff or by requesting their letter be read into the record.

Sandhills_Sentinel~ Article and screenshot photo of Monday’s meeting by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter John Patota.

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