More Guilford County middle, high schoolers will be learning in-person; GCS updates student health protocols

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Guilford County Schools (WGHP file photo)

Guilford County Schools (WGHP file photo)

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — More Guilford County Schools students will be learning in-person five days per week starting on Monday, April 19, according to a GCS news release.

The change affects secondary school students with disabilities who receive special education services through an individual education plan, or 504 plan, and English language learners who are not currently learning in-person five days per week.

The change also affects middle and high school students who currently attend school on a hybrid schedule, with two days of in-person instruction and three days of remote instruction each week.

“Our goal has always been to educate the maximum number of students in person for the greatest amount of time possible while keeping students and staff healthy and safe,” said Superintendent Sharon L. Contreras.

Secondary school students who are enrolled in a virtual school, or who learn remotely through their home schools, will remain on that plan through the end of the year. The district is not accepting new requests for in-person learning. Starting April 19, students will either attend virtually or in-person five days per week.

Currently, more than 47,800 PreK-12 students in GCS are learning in person. Yesterday, more than 400 elementary school students on wait lists for in-person learning were able to attend school for the first time since schools closed last spring due to the pandemic.

The changes were made possible by new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services  (NCDHHS) regarding physical or social distancing. With masking requirements in place, the CDC and the NCDHHS now say that schools can place students 3 feet apart when desks are facing in the same direction.

Protocols requiring 6 feet of physical distance while waiting in lines and traveling through hallways and corridors remain in force, as do efforts to limit student and employee gatherings in meeting rooms and common spaces. Faculty, staff and school board meetings will continue to be held virtually through the end of the school year.

In keeping with the March 24 update to state public health protocols, GCS schools will stop requiring student health attestations prior to boarding a school bus, entering a school or classroom, or participating in athletics. Students temperatures will no longer be taken prior to school entry. This change will also go into effect on April 19.

Parents/guardians are encouraged to monitor their children’s symptoms and keep them home if they are ill, have COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID-19 within the last 14 days. Students should remain home until they are symptom and fever free for at least 24 hours without the aid of fever-reducing medicine.

Mask mandates and protocols regarding respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene will remain in place for students, employees and other adults on school buses and school/district campuses. The district continues to provide schools with three- and four-ply masks for use by students and staff.

Daily temperature checks and health screening attestations prior to building entry will continue for employees and other adults through the end of the school year. District schools and buildings remain closed to visitors and volunteers.

“We want to thank our staff members, who have been so diligent in adhering to our health and safety protocols and so resourceful in finding new ways to reach students,” Contreras said. “The success of our elementary schools and the smooth re-entry of our middle and high school students have given us the confidence to move forward with this change, as we begin the long process of helping students recover some of the learning losses we’ve seen this year.”

Starting last fall, GCS was one of the first large school districts statewide and nationally to bring PreK-5 students back to school five days per week for in-person learning. GCS was also one of the first to offer in-person learning for PreK-12 students with disabilities served in self-contained classrooms or public separate school settings as well as those who are homeless, living in transitional housing or living in foster care settings.

With more than 20,000 GCS students PreK-12 attending school in-person since November of 2020, the district’s reopening plan has served as a state and national model for other school systems. In February, the district’s reopening plan and planning process garnered a “Best of the Best” Award from the North Carolina School Public Relations Association.

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