ALAMANCE COUNTY, N.C. — Gov. Roy Cooper has not yet made an announcement about the upcoming school year, so Alamance-Burlington School System is trying to anticipate the orders that will come.
“We have received our first shipment of PPE, including gowns, face shields, face masks, and thermometers, to distribute among our schools,” ABSS said on Facebook. “ABSS is continuing to plan and prepare.”
The governor was initially expected to announce Wednesday what schools would look like in North Carolina, but his office said on Tuesday night he will not make that announcement just yet.
School districts in the Piedmont have been scrambling to form three reopening plans the governor ordered earlier in June. One for minimum social distancing, another for moderate social distancing and a third for remote learning. The deadline to submit plans was July 1.
“I do not think it is reasonable to think we can open all at once,” said Dr. Angela Hairston, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools superintendent.
Rising COVID-19 cases are leaving district leaders at WSFCS skeptical.
“We don’t have great options, we have less-bad options,” said Elisabeth Motsinger, WSFCS board member.
From having all students back in school to having them learn from home, the in-between is the most difficult to plan and was the topic of Thursday’s COVID task force virtual meeting.
One question raised: what does opening schools at 50 percent capacity look like?
“I think it would be a very good idea to start with our younger children, phasing in and letting everybody else be remote,” Hairston said.
While an A-week/B-week schedule would be the most convenient option for teachers and allow students to learn in-person two weeks out of the month, Hairston fears what would happen to students who have to stay at home without supervision on their remote learning weeks.
“We have a significant population of parents who will be forced to leave children at home alone because they’re frontline workers, they cannot afford expensive childcare options, and so that really causes a safety issue,” Hairston said.
Another option is to have all kindergarten through 3rd graders back in school, with 4th and 5th graders spaced out at the middle schools and middle schoolers spaced out at the high schools. High school students would learn remotely.
In the Alamance-Burlington school district leaders have discussed a similar model but with alternating grades.
A lot of chatter, some progress, but plenty of work still to do as school leaders try to please as many people as possible.
“We need to be more servant minded. What can we do to help everybody else?” Hairston said.
Another big challenge district leaders are facing is transportation. If they limit students on bus routes, the school day would have to start later because it would take children longer to get to school and complete a health screening. There’s also the concern bus drivers are high risk for COVID-19.