Lincoln County Schools reported Tuesday that a remote learning student at Pumpkin Center Primary School had tested positive for the coronavirus. The student was at the school only briefly to be assessed. The teacher who met with that student was put on quarantine for 14 days as a precaution, although the teacher showed no symptoms. There may be other isolated cases that will develop; the Lincoln Herald will not report on those unless the schools take some extraordinary action (in a case, for example, that may involve more than one student or staff member). We are assured that if isolated cases occur, as they most likely will, the schools are prepared to handle those on an individual basis and it should not affect the overall day-to-day operation.
Iron Station Elementary students finally got their school year started this week. That school's opening was delayed for two weeks when the other Lincoln County schools opened on August 17th because some staff members there had either been infected or had been around others who were.
Lincoln Charter School opted to start the school year with all remote learning.
While the schools in Lincoln County weren't having big problems with the virus, the same can't be said for Gaston County. Gaston County Schools has had cases of the virus involving either students or staff at 14 schools. Most of those have been isolated cases, just one to a school.
Gaston County has also had a bumpy start to its Virtual Academy for online learning. The idea had already been developed before the pandemic became a problem. The problem in large part is because of the pandemic, which turned what had been expected to be a program for about 2,000 students into one that is being asked to serve 7,000.
One other update on schools: the USDA announced Monday (Aug. 31st) that it was extending the free meals program (breakfast and lunch) for all students until the end of the year (Dec. 31st), so parents won't have to pay for breakfast or lunch in the Lincoln, Catawba, Gaston & Cleveland County school systems until the end of the year.
Lincoln County Schools issued a news release Wednesday morning (Sept. 2nd) about how they are handling services to students with special needs during this COVID period:
The Lincoln County School System is dedicated to serving the unique needs of every child. Following the closure of all North Carolina schools by the Governor effective Monday, March 16, 2020 due to the COVID-19 health crisis, Lincoln County Schools responded immediately to provide remote services to all students to the greatest extent possible.
Since March, Lincoln County Schools has worked diligently to address the unique needs of all our exceptional students. The realities of the pandemic include adherence to NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) health and safety protocols as mandated by the North Carolina General Assembly for educational settings. During the month of July, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) issued various guidance documents permitting school districts to develop Remote Learning Contingency Plans (RLCP) for exceptional students to address the services they will receive in a Plan B (partial in-person) or Plan C (completely remote) environment. Lincoln County Schools currently serves 1,543 students with disabilities and the district is writing an RLCP for every single student whose education is impacted by partial or fully remote instruction.
Finally, the law requires that school districts consider the “unique circumstances” of each child. COVID-19 and the health and safety mandates that are necessary to save lives are one such circumstance. We all want students back in school, exceptional children and students served fully in the regular education environment. Currently, that is not legally or factually possible. Therefore, Lincoln County Schools will continue to strive to provide the best services we can while protecting all students and staff to the greatest extent possible until this pandemic is behind us and all students can return to the school environment they left on Friday, March 13, 2020. Lincoln County Schools has begun extending in-person learning opportunities to some of our most vulnerable students. These opportunities are currently extended to our students who may have no internet capabilities whatsoever, our most severely disabled, as well as students with physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech language needs.
Providing an education for exceptional students does not come without challenges. However, educators, students, and families across the nation are currently experiencing challenges like never before associated with the educational ramifications of the Covid-19 pandemic. Lincoln County Schools is currently operating under Plan B which is a hybrid model in which students receive both in person and remote instruction. Lincoln County Schools has phenomenal special educators working diligently to meet the unique and individualized needs of all students. Challenges are evident, but staff are being creative to find ways to teach in person classes four days per week while also providing individualized instruction to students whose parents have opted for the Governors mandated fully remote option. Instruction is currently being supported through additional funding for instructional supplies and implementation of programs to support specially designed instruction with online components. The goal of the Exceptional Children’s Department is truly “Every Child, Every Need”.
Kimberly Davis, Director of Exceptional Children states that “Lincoln County Schools’ commitment to Exceptional Children and their families is unwavering. Appropriate instruction and ensuring meaningful educational benefit for our students is top priority. Lincoln County Schools is a great place to learn for ALL students.”
Q & A
How are Lincoln County Schools accommodating special education services with remote learning?
The school district is addressing EC students’ educational and related services through Remote Learning Contingency Plans (RLCPs). The plans are an amendment to their IEPs and are individualized to provide instructional and related services when students are in Plans B and C.
How are you ensuring that students who may not be able to attend virtual classes are still receiving the instruction that they need?
Instructional opportunities for all students are provided through synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities. If students are having difficulty, synchronous, virtual instruction, paper/pencil work, video/recorded lessons, and online learning platforms are available.
What does the school day look like for staff members who typically provide these services?
Staff days are dependent on their individual student caseloads and schedules. Classroom schedules are individualized to meet the individualized needs of the students served. Under Plan B, teachers are serving two cohorts of students in-person with remote follow-up days, as well as students who are solely remote.