Officials recommend delayed return to normal class schedule

Elementary school students will have to wait until next January, at the earliest, to get back to a normal classroom schedule, the Moore County Health Department has recommended. A vote to delay full in-person learning is expected by the Moore County Board of Education at their next meeting on Monday.

Gov. Roy Cooper announced in mid-September that public schools could implement Plan A for elementary schools, grades K-5, beginning October 5. Under Plan A, schools could return to full classrooms while requiring face coverings for all students, teachers and staff, practice social distancing and screen for symptoms.

Moore County Schools currently operates a hybrid Plan B. Students attend two days of in-person instruction, followed by three days of distance learning. The classroom days are alternated between two groups so that social distancing is kept below 50% and capacity on buses is less than 33%.

In recommending a delay to return to 100% capacity at a meeting of the Moore County Commissioners Tuesday, Dr. Seth Powers, director for student support services for Moore County Schools, cited the state’s urging for the public to follow the 3 Ws – Wear a mask, Wash your hands and Wait 6-feet apart.    

“When we do come back to Plan A, we’re going to essentially be removing one of those three Ws, the wait,” said Dr. Powers. “There’s no way we can put a full classroom Kindergarten through 5 children together and be able to socially distance at a minimum of six feet. So that’s a concern especially in the classroom, the buses and at lunch when students have to remove their masks to eat.”

All Moore County Schools students presently receive five days of instruction, either in-person or virtual. Currently, 4,200 students across the district attend in-person learning on Mondays and Tuesdays, and remote instruction the rest of the week. Another 4,400 students opted for Thursday and Fridays as their classroom days. In yet another option, 3,600 are enrolled in the all-virtual program.

Sentiment over the return to all classroom instruction is split among parents of school-aged children as school districts across the state struggle with their reopening plans.

Public health officials, educators and some, but not all, parents think it is a good idea to continue a blend of in-classroom learning and distance learning. They call for the need to keep children, teachers and staff safe by following social distancing guidelines.

“I am concerned about the larger class sizes and the lack of social distancing that would happen with that size.  Especially going into flu season,” said Nuala Ferdinand, the mother of two elementary school students. “There are just too many unknowns right now. I think they are making the right decision for the staff and students.”

Others in the community believe that students are falling behind, particularly those with poor digital skills or lack of resources like high-speed internet. Still, others are concerned with the impact that the pandemic is having on the mental health of some students by not attending classes regularly. 

Feature photo: Dr. Seth Powers, director for student support services for Moore County Schools, addressed the Moore County Board of Commissioners during their meeting on Tuesday.

Sandhills_Sentinel~Article and photo by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter John Patota.

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