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Back to school plans announced

Local plans are being developed for the type of learning environment that Roanoke-Chowan area students will experience when public schools open next month.

After a round of meetings held this week by the boards of education in the local four counties to discuss their options, the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald learned of plans approved by those educational leaders.

It appears that Plan C (remote learning) is the popular choice locally, with all of the districts choosing to follow that route for the first nine weeks of the 2020-21 academic year and then reassess the situation in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bertie County

The Bertie County Board of Education met July 21 and unanimously approved the superintendent’s recommendation to open the school year on Plan C—all remote learning—for the first nine weeks of school.

Face-to-face provisions will be made for certain groups of students, such those in IEP (Special Education) programs, students enrolled in certain CTE courses with Martin Community College that require labs, and select seniors who need to ensure they have all their credits for graduation.

All Fall sports and extracurricular (after-school) activities such as band are suspended indefinitely.

As the close of the first nine weeks approaches, the situation in Bertie County will be reevaluated with regard to the spread and reach of the COVID-19 and another decision will be made for moving forward from that point.

More information is forthcoming with details from the plans for remote learning, meals, etc.

Gates County

Another unanimous decision to use Plan C was reached by the Gates County Board of Education when they met on Wednesday morning.

During the first nine weeks, the Gates County School Board will revisit the COVID-19 issue to see what plan is safest moving forward with the ultimate goal of eventually going back to in-person learning for all.

“We recognize that each plan poses its own set of challenges for parents, students, staff, and school operations,” stated Dr. Barry Williams, Superintendent of Gates County Public Schools. “Though these decisions clearly involve many different considerations, the health and safety of our students and staff will always remain at the forefront of our decision-making process.”

Dr. Williams said he was certain that the parents of school-age children in the county will have questions about how school will start and what the expectations will be.

“Now, more than ever, communication with our stakeholders is critical,” he stressed. “In the coming days and weeks, we will update you with specifics about how school will start and look during this time of remote learning.

“School as we know it will be different this year,” he continued. “We are comforted in knowing that as proud Gates County community members and North Carolina citizens, we do our finest work in the most uncertain and trying times and we must teach our children that they can overcome this obstacle.”

Hertford County

Like other districts, Hertford County Public Schools will open the new school year under Plan C for the first nine weeks. The recommendation was made by Superintendent Dr. William Wright and unanimously approved by the county Board of Education on July 22.

They noted, however, that there will be some face-to-face opportunities forthcoming for students, but such occasions will continue to observe all social distancing and masking guidelines.

“We are committed to doing everything possible to safely re-open our campuses. Please know that as educators, we want to ensure that your child continues to learn every single day,” Dr. Wright stated in a press release.

All COVID-19 related documents, re-entry plans, and communications will be accessible on the district’s webpage.

Northampton County

After a meeting with the county’s Board of Education on July 22, Northampton County Schools announced in a letter from Superintendent Dr. Pamela Chamblee that the district will also be participating in remote learning under Plan C for the first quarter of the school year.

Students enrolled in the district’s new Virtual Academy, however, will continue with virtual learning for the entire academic year.

Plans for high school students enrolled in college-level courses requiring in-person labs or other on-campus components are still being developed.

“As we continue to monitor the number of COVID-19 cases in our county, state, and nation, we cannot ignore the risks associated with opening our school doors too soon. We must protect our most vulnerable by prioritizing the health and safety of all,” said Dr. Chamblee.

The district’s next steps will be to reassess plans to accommodate a variety of additional needs including exceptional children services, ESL services, AIG services, social and emotional needs, technology availability, internet access, school nutrition, and more.

By September 22, the district will have determined which learning model will be implemented going forward.

On July 14, Governor Roy Cooper announced his decision to open schools for the 2020-2021 school year under Plan B, which would mean a staggered schedule of in-person learning with social distancing and facemask protocols in place coupled with remote learning.

However, Cooper noted that if COVID-19 trends spike, Plan B will no longer be an option for districts and North Carolina would move to total remote learning. He also said, Plan B is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution for all counties and allowed for school districts to choose Plan C if that is what they believe would be the safest decision for them.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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