Board of Education adjusts back-to-school plan

Published 5:40 pm Tuesday, January 5, 2021

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GATESVILLE – Gates County schoolchildren will return to the classroom a few days later than originally planned.

In a special called virtual meeting held Jan. 4, the county’s Board of Education unanimously agreed to several revised plans that will allow the second semester under Plan A (face-to-face) for elementary schools (Buckland, Gatesville and T.S. Cooper) to begin on the following dates:

Pre-K, Kindergarten and First Grade on Tuesday, Jan. 12;

Second Grade and Third Grade on Tuesday, Jan. 19; and

Fourth Grade and Fifth Grade on Tuesday, Jan. 26.

In-person instruction and services for students with disabilities will resume on Tuesday, Jan. 12.

For those students whose parents chose to have their children to remain on a total remote learning plan, that type of instruction begins on Wednesday, Jan. 6.

The Board of Education also agreed that the school district will begin the second semester under Plan B (face-to-face and virtual) for the high school and middle school on Jan. 19.

This slightly changes the start dates (Jan. 6 for elementary school students and Jan. 12 for the middle and high schools) approved last month by the school board.

The plan remains unchanged for elementary schools that will operate under Plan A (in class four days per week). The middle school and the high school will still use Plan B (two days in school; two days of virtual/remote learning).

As to the slight delay in starting classes, the school board, at their Jan. 4 meeting, heard comments from the principals at the high school and middle school, which played into their final decision.

One of those comments regarded the presence of only 45 juniors and seniors at one time at the high school due to the split face-to-face and remote learning plans, which will eliminate crowding in the classrooms and hallways.

As agreed upon last month, middle school and high school students will have face-to-face instruction two days per week with virtual/remote instruction two days per week. Students in grades 6 through 12 will be divided into two groups, Group A and Group B.

On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Group A will have face-to-face instruction at school while Group B will receive virtual/remote learning. Those two groups will switch places on Thursdays and Fridays.

“Waiting until Jan. 19 will give me next week to complete freshman orientation,” said GCHS Principal Jonathan Hayes.

Hayes added that he was recently advised of a fifth GCHS teacher that needed to quarantine due to COVID-related issues, a situation where more time is needed for staff members to emerge from the mandated quarantine period.

The board also discussed athletics at the high school and middle school, approving a plan that will follow the guidelines of the NCHSAA. Volleyball and Cross Country at the high school will conclude their regular seasons this week, with play-offs starting afterwards.

Basketball can begin their scheduled games this week, after nearly a month’s worth of pre-season practice.

Soccer practice begins Jan. 11 with its first scheduled match on Feb. 10.

Football practice opens Feb. 8 and can play their first game on March 5.

Middle school athletes will compete in basketball (schedule TBA).

The Gates County Community Center will remain open, with an emphasis of adhering to all state and federal guidelines in an effort to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

School officials said despite the constant threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, they feel comfortable with the decision to reopen classrooms for face-to-face instruction.

“We can make this work as long as we do the things we’re supposed to do, and that also applies to when we leave school as well,” said Superintendent Dr. Barry Williams, referencing the importance of following the health safety guidelines put in place by school officials last month. “We all want our kids back in school and to keep them safe.”

“To all involved, if you have an issue that deals with COVID, please err on the side of caution; [teachers/staff] get tested before you go to school, and [parents] before you send a child to school,” stressed Ray Felton, Chairman of the county’s Board of Education. “Don’t put on a hero hat and cause us to have to stop school for everybody. Everyone needs to be vigilant and making sure that we don’t spread COVID.”

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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