Now that the Governor and General Assembly have unanimously agreed that all schools--as much as possible--should return to in-person classes, the Lincoln County Board of Education will hold a special called meeting Monday morning at 8 AM to discuss the new rules. The Catawba County School Board will hold a special meeting Monday afternoon at 5:30 for the same purpose. Gaston County's School Board already had its regular monthly meeting scheduled for Monday evening.
Lincoln County Schools began mostly in-person classes for K-8 students last October. Beginning with the second semester in January, they moved to in-person classes where possible for middle and high school students. Supt. Dr. Aaron Allen told us "We are in Plan A for elementary school and a modified B for middle and high. Plan A is for minimal social distancing and B is moderate (6 ft). We are holding this special called board meeting to discuss our re-entry plan for all secondary students based on the new rules."
It's widely agreed that in-person classes are far more effective than remote learning. The Lincoln County School Board got a report at its recent meetings on just how much the change to more in-person classes had improved student outcomes:
"The district did see a reduction in elementary failures after returning to in-person learning 5 days per week (8% in quarter 1 to 4% in quarter 2). Remediation efforts in high school included adding an additional in-person academic recovery day for students during November and December, and the additional week of intercession led to an improvement of 9% (31% failing each quarter to 22% final failures for the fall semester).
"At the start of second semester in January, the district transitioned to live streaming from all classrooms in grades 6-12 instead of providing pre-recorded, asynchronous lessons. The district also completed the roll-out of the 1:1 chromebook initiative. The 3rd quarter will provide some additional data regarding the efforts to address student failures.
"Students that are attending class in-person continue to experience greater academic success and higher pass rates than students that are fully remote learners. Overall the failure rates of remote learners increased from quarter 1 to quarter 2 by 11% (27% in quarter 1 to 38% in quarter 2). However, the failure rates of students attending school in person decreased by 5% (24% in quarter 1 to 19% in quarter 2). "
It was one year ago this weekend since Governor Cooper ordered all schools closed for the rest of school year 2019-2020 because of the rapidly growing pandemic. At last Tuesday night's School Board meeting, Dr. Allen recognized the efforts of the teachers, principals and other school personnel during the pandemic. He called his presentation "Recognizing our Lincoln County Schools COVID Heroes." You can view the recording of the meeting on YouTube. Here is what Dr. Allen said last Tuesday:
"A Hero is defined as a person admired or idealized for outstanding achievements or qualities--a special person who faces adversity by feats of ingenuity, strength, or courage.
"On March 13, 2020, our community changed. And with that change, our folks that make up Lincoln County Schools (LCS) and Lincoln County went into action to help families with physical needs.
'The first priority was food insecurity. A special thanks goes to Kathy Vinzant with United Way of Lincoln County, Christian Ministries of Lincoln County, Pastor Mike Devine and the Covenant Church staff, and Pastor Jordan Green and the Pursuit Church staff for stepping in and stepping up in a huge way for early support to the community.
"Once these community members responded, LCS School Social Workers and Guidance Counselors, Dr. Tim Beam, Jenny Brogden, Kim Walker, and Tammy Wright, along with countless volunteers stepped up to coordinate food for families in need. Food distribution statistics include:
2806 bags of food, representing 14,030 meals
341 summer backpacks, representing 1,023 meals
75 5-lb. boxes of chicken tenders
50 10-lb. boxes of chicken tenders
200 individual containers of orange juice
100 large Easter baskets
2000 Easter bags
28 gallons of milk
25 boxes of tomatoes
150 containers of strawberries
180 boxes of pomegranates
7,263 backpacks distributed during the current school year, representing 21,789 meals
25 50-lb. bags of potatoes
Additional donations included:
- eggs, cheese, butter, toilet paper, paper towels, baby formula, baby diapers
- 2,600 boxes of food and gallons of milk through a USDA grant = 85,800 lbs. of food and 20,800 meals
- LCS received monetary donations in in the amount of $9,020.00 from individuals in support of the community
"In addition to this community response, the LCS Child Nutrition (CN) Staff also stepped up to the plate, performing amazing feats week after week for students and families. Two days after the school closures, our CN Department began providing meal service to our community. Ten days later, they began offering meal service seven days per week. Forty-eight CN employees worked from March to May, 2020. Thirty-two CN employees continued serving meals from June through August. During this time, CN employees prepared and served 740,000 meals. 164,000 of these meals were delivered via yellow school buses or by the Atrium Food Bus utilized by the school district.
"As of August, 2020, a total of 76 CN employees had produced 30,000 meals each week for the “Grab and Go” meal service to the community in addition to their normal responsibilities to students who were attending school in person. LCS bus drivers, teacher assistants, and other staff members assisted with the “Grab and Go” service and delivery each day to make district efforts a success.
"As schools reopened, LCS bus drivers provided service to 3,000 students each day, driving over 5,400 miles a day with new responsibilities of monitoring social distancing guidelines and disinfecting buses. In addition to our fleet of drivers, the Transportation Department experienced new challenges related to their roles. Again, these LCS employees responded in a big way to keep those yellow buses rolling, serving students.
"One year ago, the responsibilities for the LCS custodial staff also took a major turn. New disinfectant, sprayers, personal protective equipment, wipes, and extensive schedules were now top priority in addition to their normal and seasonal responsibilities. LCS has continued operations due to the dedication and diligence of custodial and maintenance staff members. A special thank you goes to this small but resourceful group of men and women for their attention to detail and care shown to make safety a priority for the 11,000 students and 1,500 staff members in the district.
"The safety of students and staff have been a major priority since March, 2020. LCS teachers, teacher assistants, administrators, and office staff, have done a yeoman’s task of taking a school district, rooted in quality face-to-face instruction with limited student technology available, to taking their instructional and informational models and transitioning them as best as possible in a matter of days… yes, days.
"Many individuals have described this transition in comparison to trying to steer the “Titanic” through a 120-degree turnaround versus that of a speedboat. Some individuals were critical of schools and staff and felt that the district should be moving at the rate of a speedboat on Lake Norman. In reality, it was more like trying to move the “Titanic,” with no power steering, in the semi frozen arctic waters, while repairing an engine at the same time.
"Remote Learning was our Titanic issue. The district initially started with paper/pencil packets and transitioned to online resources. We then moved on to non-live instruction and transitioned to live instruction. Staff members copied packets, and circulated over 110,000 K-12 books from school media centers. We have had 3 million digital applications launched in the COVID year (which is up 245% from last year), 2.3 million logins to our digital resources (compared to 1 million one year ago), and 14,000 hours logged into our learning management systems of Canvas and Google Classroom.
"All our teachers are to be commended for their efforts in learning a system that is foreign to many. LCS is collectively better that we were one year ago and realize that we are still not where we want to be with our staff and parent understanding of Google Classroom and Canvas.
"Thank you to our instructional and special education services teams, our academic directors, lead teachers, administrative staff, and leaders that took on that “Titanic” task. We commend them for their hard work and continued support of our educators and parents during this past. Past complaints have drastically diminished and we are 85% in a groove and moving into the fourth quarter of the school year.
"LCS could not have been successful without two important groups: the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners and the LCS Technology Services Team. Thank you to the Board of Commissioners for spending $1.3 million to fulfill the technology needs of our students and to the Technology Services Department for executing the distribution of the devices to our schools for each and every student.
"There have been many obstacles/barricades which we had to navigate the “Titanic” around since March, 2020 but we are still sailing… to the credit of our Heroes.
"The LCS Technology Department implemented public Wi-Fi systems at all school sites providing internet access for families. To date, over 3,000 unique clients have logged into the public access with an average of 112 clients per day. We have also been able to distribute 250 hotspots, 660 webcams for K-12, and 5,222 new chrome books to students.
"The following school sites lead usage statistics for public community access, indicating that from east to west and north into Lincolnton, we still have reliable internet issues for families that make remote and digital learning a challenge.
- West Lincoln High School 584
- Lincolnton High School 512
- East Lincoln Middle School 481
- West Lincoln Middle School 448
- East Lincoln High School 422
- Rock Springs Elementary School 349
"I can't emphasize enough the amount of work and dedication that has been provided by all LCS educators during the past year.
"Thank you to the LCS Human Resources (HR) Department for working with school administrators to keep schools fully staffed. Thank you to HR as they continue to do their part to coordinate and manage the countless questions about COVID related leave time as well as recruiting and managing substitute teachers during the pandemic.
"Thank you to the LCS Finance Department for managing additional government funding effectively and efficiently during the pandemic, in addition to their routine school finance functions. These ladies have processed an additional $500,000.00 during the past year.
"In addition, LCS celebrates our partner Heroes at the Lincoln County Health Department and Atrium Lincoln. These two organizations have responded in a big way from preparing our response to the ever changing guidelines received from the Department of Health and Human Services to the organization of COVID shots for staff and community members. LCS also celebrates our school nurses who have done an amazing job balancing their everyday role in the school system and having to pinch hit at the Health Department to be a part of not only our response, but a service to the greater community, which still continues today.
"A Heroes salute also goes to the Lincoln County Board of Education (BOE) members who have served during the pandemic. The BOE’s progressive stance pushed our district out to the front of the line even though we may have been different from our surrounding counties. We owe our push to respond in this manner to the beliefs held by the BOE as a whole. Because of this, LCS is seen as a leader in the plan to serve students and our community in the right way.
"LCS has balanced the needs of our students with the fears of the unknown. LCS has put practices in place and set clear procedures for everyone to follow and look where it has gotten us today! LCS is happy to report today we have only 13% (1417 out of 11,200) students on full remote learning and approximately 70% are participating in face-to-face instruction in our middle and high schools each day. Elementary schools currently participate in face-to-face instruction five days a week.
"LCS is reporting 4% for positive COVID cases with two days the week of March 5, 2021 with NO NEW COVID cases to report within the district. This report is an excellent example of LCS’s students, teachers, administrators, staff, coaches, athletic directors, and parents, all doing their part… even when it’s difficult.
"We are all tired of mask breath, tired of asking the same morning questions, tired of getting temperatures checked, and weary of logging into another Google or Zoom meeting. We are all tired of not seeing the smile on someone’s face and instead, learning to smile with our eyes. We are all balancing the act of managing mask placement while trying to demonstrate, coach, and teach. Teaching has changed but learning has also shifted for both students and adults.
"Our students, staff, and leaders are all our COVID Heroes.
"To review our definition...a Hero is defined as a person admired or idealized for outstanding achievements or qualities; special person who faces adversity by feats of ingenuity, strength, or courage.
"We have all faced adversity and Lincoln County is plentiful with people that our organization admires for their outstanding problem solving, ingenuity, strength, and courage.
"Thanks again to all of LCS
- 1500 staff
- 11,200 students
- 1800 volunteers
- 25,000 parents
"To have school normalizing, to having equitable access to content, to hearing sounds and enjoying sites of athletics and arts again, to competing in academics and athletics, to celebrating milestones. You made it possible to get here today.
"I'm proud of what Dr. Lory Morrow started for LCS in March 2020. I promise to you all today, March 9, 2021, to continue to lead the best group of employees that a parent could ask for to impact a child and their future.
"The LCS slogan has been, #LCSstrong2theCore. Today, one year later, one could say we are “stronger to the core,” and they would be right.
"The strength of LCS continues to grow, develop in areas we didn't even know existed, and will be showcased in new ways to our community. We know that we will battle the fallout of COVID for years to come. We will be diligent, patient, forward thinking, persistent, and optimistic in how our story will continue to be told.
"Thank you for allowing me to recognize the many LCS COVID Heroes that make Lincoln County Schools the best place to work and learn."