North Carolina school districts can return to five days per week in-person classes for grades K-5 without capacity restrictions starting October 5th, but one county school system has already decided it can't be ready by then.
The Gaston County School Board decided not to change to Plan A at its meeting on Monday (Sept. 21st).
The Lincoln County Board of Education will hold a special called meeting Thursday morning at 9 AM to discuss whether or not to change their operation.
Lincoln County, Gaston County, Catawba County and Cleveland County Schools opted for Plan B to begin the school year August 17th. That plan, one of three suggested by the state, involves a combination of in-person and remote learning. Some students go to school on Monday & Tuesday; others go on Thursday & Friday; and remote learning is used for the other days. Some students and their parents opted to Plan C--fully remote learning.
Lincoln Charter School began its school year a week earlier--but chose to only use Plan C to begin the year. The Lincoln Charter School Board voted Monday night to move to Plan A for K-5 starting October 19th. They will begin Plan B for grades 7-8 starting October 19th and Plan B for grades 9-12 starting October 26th.
Catawba County's School Board will meet next Monday (Sept. 28th) for an all-day work session followed by the regular board meeting that evening. The subject of transitioning to Plan A for grades K-5 is sure to be discussed.
Gaston County Supt. Dr. Jeffrey Booker said his system can't be ready by October 5th, and before they can make such a change, further discussions with teachers, parents and others will have to take place. "Right now we have 12-14 desks in classrooms," he said. "To go to Plan A, we'll have to increase that to twice as many--and that will make social distancing very difficult."
Gaston County has also had 32 cases of COVID-19 confirmed among students and staff. Only one school, Webb Street School, was reported as a cluster. There, the school was closed temporarily after the cases were linked to the school.
NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen cited studies that show that younger children (10 and under) get COVID-19 less often, get less severely sick, and have less viral transmission back to their household or to other children they are around. Additionally, educational studies show the benefits to in-person learning is even more significant in the youngest students. That, she said, is why the state is allowing a return to full-time in-person learning for grades K-5. But while younger students have a lower risk, Plan A still includes the requirement for face-coverings, temperature checks, symptom screenings, frequent hand-washing, and enhanced cleaning and sanitization protocols.