After Gov. Cooper announced on July 14 that schools could reopen in August provided that extra safety precautions were in place, (and after surveying local families to garner their input), Dare County Schools posted the following FAQs for parents, students, and families on what the new restrictions could entail.
The school administration will present five re-opening options to the Dare County Board of Education at a meeting on Monday, July 20, that will include an audio broadcast via YouTube. (A link to the meeting will be provided on the Dare County Schools website at https://www.daretolearn.org/.)
The potential options range from students attending school intermittently and on rotating days, to students learning remotely until a specified date. Per an emailed message to families from the superintendent, because the county’s schools would need to have a maximum of 12 students in every classroom, (socially distanced by 6 feet), all students will likely not be able to attend in person five days a week.
The five options that are being considered can be reviewed in detail here: https://islandfreepress.org/outer-banks-news/dcs-ponders-5-options-for-re-opening-schools/.
In the meantime, if in-person learning is initiated when school restarts in August, the following FAQs will apply.
Will students have to wear face coverings all day?
Yes. Currently, all NC Public Schools are required to ensure that all K-12 students, all teachers, staff and adult visitors must wear cloth face coverings. This includes buses, inside school buildings, and anywhere on school grounds, including outside. Some exceptions apply such as while eating, or if a student is engaged in strenuous physical activity and able to maintain 6 feet distance from other people.
What happens if a student refuses to wear a mask or takes it off?
DCS is examining it policies and disciplinary procedures with the intent to make COVID-19 related revisions. Updated standards will be released to parents, students and staff.
What is the difference between DCS virtual learning and the remote learning component of the district’s reopening plan?
Remote learning is any instruction that takes place outside of a traditional classroom, while DCS’s Virtual Learning option is a more formalized mode of instruction in which students enroll and are accepted into a virtual classroom agreement.
Students who enroll in DCS Virtual Learning can expect to engage in an online community focused on core curriculum and aligned with the North Carolina Standards for Learning. The intent is to allow students to experience instruction online. While participating in virtual learning, students will remain enrolled in their current school and will continue to be able to participate in extracurricular programs and receive updates and services. Remote learning is a broader mode of instruction that refers to any teaching and learning in which students access their instruction in a location other than their traditional classroom setting.
What is the purpose of the virtual learning program?
Dare County Schools believes a high quality virtual option can be provided to meet the needs of parents and students during this time of uncertainty. Requiring a semester commitment assists not only with staffing, but also allows students continuity in learning progression through course standards and topics.
Virtual learning environments provide an opportunity for students to work from home often allowing flexibility in pacing. With the benefits of some flexibility comes the responsibility for ensuring academic activities are completed on time and scheduled meetings are attended as they are assigned by the virtual learning teacher and/or an administrator. Students will be held accountable for their attendance, assignments, and assessments associated with the courses in which they are enrolled.
Students are expected to engage in learning activities each day. These activities include, but are not limited to: Attending virtual classroom sessions hosted on Google Meet; Turning in assignments to their teacher via the Learning Management System such as Canvas (Grades 6-12); Google Classroom (Grades 3-5); or See Saw; Attending virtual check-in meetings with virtual learning staff.
Will high school students participating in the virtual program be eligible to participate in extracurricular activities, including athletics?
Students enrolled in Dare County’s Virtual Learning option are eligible to participate in athletics and student organizations that are held within their traditionally assigned school. Students will still be expected to meet the requirements for participation in extracurricular activities as outlined in Board of Education Policy 3620.
What if I change my mind after the start of the school year and want to enroll or un-enroll in Virtual Learning?
Students who choose the DCS Virtual Learning option will remain in that setting through the fall semester. Students may return to their classroom setting in the spring semester. The school district will reevaluate program continuation for the second semester. We are moving teachers into virtual teaching roles based on student registration and teacher interest, so we need to maintain consistency in serving the number of students in the program. Thus, the importance of maintaining students in the program.
The Dare County Virtual Learning option is open to all students in Dare County Schools. To utilize this option, parents must enroll their child no later than September 21, 2020. After that date, if parents/guardians want to enroll their children in virtual learning, space in the program will be determined by capacity, class size requirements, and staff availability.
Will Dare Virtual Learning require my child to be in front of a computer screen for 7 hours?
No. Dare Virtual learning is a blended learning model that will include scheduled live teaching, small group meetings, and independent activities allowing for family flexibility.
Will students use lockers at schools?
Schools have the option to use lockers but only if they are spaced 6 feet apart.
How did you determine that the class maximum occupancy is 12 students in a classroom?
The leadership team applied the state’s formula of 12 students in a space per 1000 sq. foot. We actually emptied typical classroom spaces, and placed desks 6 feet apart. We arrived at 12 desks could be socially distanced apart per classroom. We are aware that a few districts are putting more students in classrooms however; we are maintaining our safety standards.
I have young elementary students- will I still be able to walk them to their classrooms every morning?
No, not under the current mandates. Public schools in ‘Plan B’ must limit the total number of students, teachers, staff and visitors within a school building to the extent necessary to ensure that 6 feet distance can be maintained when people will be stationary. Visitors will be primarily limited to picking up students for appointments and for prearranged conferences where (social distancing will be followed). All visitors will have to wear face coverings and are required to participate in a temperature check and health screenings prior to entering a school facility.
What will DCS do to maintain social distancing?
The first week of on-site instruction will include a lot of social distancing training, routines and practicing of social distancing requirements. We are required to:
- Provide social distancing floor/seating markings in waiting and reception areas
- Mark 6 feet of spacing to remind students to stay 6 feet apart in lines and at other times when they may congregate
- Mark 6 feet of spacing to remind teachers and staff to stay 6 feet apart at times when they may congregate, such as during staff meetings, planning periods, lunch, recess, in teacher lounges, and break rooms
- Provide marks on the floors of restrooms and locker rooms to indicate proper social distancing
- Limit nonessential visitors and activities involving external groups or organizations
- Have teachers and staff monitor arrival and dismissal to discourage congregating and ensure students go straight from a vehicle to their classrooms and vice-versa
- Mark 6 feet of spacing to remind school nutrition staff to stay 6 feet apart throughout food distribution
- Choose physical education activities that limit the use of shared equipment, and any close contact between students during those activities is limited and brief
- Discontinue in-person activities that involve bringing together large groups of people or activities that do not allow for social distancing (Ex. assemblies, performances, field trips).
Can one child in a family participate in face-to-face while another does Dare Virtual Learning?
Yes – Dare Virtual Learning registration is for each individual child.
If DCS Hybrid Option 2 or 3 were chosen, could I opt for my children to not be in the same cohort so I can help them during Remote Learning individually?
We would do our best to be able to honor these requests.
Will students attending on-site take part in specials/electives (PE, Art, Music)?
How specials and electives will be offered to students will depend on the Reopening Option chose by the DCS BOE. Our goal is to be able to offer these programs in some form under all options where students attend onsite.
Will students attending on-site have to stay seated in one desk the entire day?
Students will be socially distanced in each classroom space. Students can still participate in activities that require movement in the classroom as long as social distancing is followed.
Where will my student eat breakfast and lunch?
We cannot meet social distancing requirements in school cafeterias. Our current plan is to have breakfast and lunch kiosks where students will pick up breakfast and lunch. They will then eat in their classrooms. It is possible depending upon the school and size of facilities that some small groups could eat in the cafeteria and or other spaces with higher maximum capacity such as a gymnasium.
If my student is working remotely or choses the virtual learning option, will DCS run its feeding program for those students?
Yes, DCS intends to run a feeding program. Location pickups will be determined at a later date.
How many students can ride a school bus?
The state has determined school bus maximum capacity at 24, one per seat. Some family’s members may be able to ride in the same seat. Students will be required to wear masks on buses.
What will schools do to ensure proper cleaning and hygiene?
Schools are required to:
- Provide adequate supplies to support healthy hygiene behaviors (e g , soap, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol for safe use by staff and older children, paper towels, and tissues)
- Teach and reinforce handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and/or the safe use of hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol by staff and older children
- Increase monitoring to ensure adherence among students and staff
- Supervise use of hand sanitizer by students
- Ensure that children with skin reactions and contraindications to hand sanitizer use soap and water
- Reinforce handwashing during key times such as: Before, during, and after preparing food; Before eating food; After using the toilet; After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; After touching objects with bare hands which have been handled by other individuals
- Provide hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol) at every building entrance and exit, in the cafeteria, and in every classroom, for safe use by staff and older students
- Systematically and frequently check and refill hand sanitizers
- Encourage staff and students to cough and sneeze into their elbows, or to cover with a tissue
- Used tissues should be thrown in the trash and hands washed immediately with soap and water for at least 20 seconds o Incorporate frequent handwashing and sanitation breaks into classroom activity
- Allow time between activities for proper cleaning and disinfection of high-touch surfaces
- Establish a schedule for and perform ongoing and routine environmental cleaning and disinfection of high-touch areas
- Ensure safe and correct use and storage of cleaning and disinfection products, including securely storing and using products away from children, and allowing for adequate ventilation when staff use such products
- Limit sharing of personal items and supplies such as writing utensils
- Keep students’ personal items separate and in individually labeled cubbies, containers or lockers
- Limit use of classroom materials to small groups
It seems like school will be very different if students are on site this year. Can you help me better understand how this will look?
Under the Plan B requirements, school will look and feel different, as we need to make many adjustments to ensure that we are providing safe environments for all DCS stakeholders. We are required to do daily temperature checks and symptom screening for anyone who enters a school campus. This will take a significant amount of time in the morning. DCS is studying how we can best provide staggered drop off times at each location to be as efficient as possible. There will certainly be adjustments for many having to wear a face covering all day. In order to maintain social distancing there will have to be restrictions on transitions in the building and building access. Socializing in the traditional setting, particularly at high schools where there are more independent socializing opportunities will be somewhat limited. About half the student body under Plan B can only attend onsite. Teaching strategies will have to be altered to address social distancing needs. So yes, school will look and feel different. Children are resilient and will adjust. The same caring DCS teachers and staff will be working with students, so we are highly confident that we will make the necessary adjustments but it will take time.
If a staff member tests positive for COVID, would their entire class have to go into quarantine?
Decision are situational dependent but yes, that would be highly likely. The district would work with our local health department and follow recommendations by Dr. Sheila Davies regarding quarantine, testing, who’s impacted and necessary action steps. Dr. Farrelly and Dr. Davies would work together in collaborative decision-making. The health department would handle contact tracing while Dr. Farrelly in consultation with Dr. Davies would determine how long a school might have to be shut down for deep cleansing.
If a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19 will I be made aware?
School districts have to ensure that if a person with COVID-19 was in the school setting while infectious, school administrators coordinate with local health officials to notify staff and families while maintaining confidentiality in accordance with FERPA, NCGS § 130A-143, and all other state and federal laws.
Can you provide details on how schools will handle suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19?
Schools are required to:
- Post signage at the main entrance requesting that people who have been symptomatic with fever and/or cough not enter.
- Educate students, families, teachers, and staff about the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, when they should stay home and when they return to school.
- Establish a dedicated space for symptomatic individuals that will not be used for other purposes.
- Immediately isolate symptomatic individuals to the designated area at the school, and send them home to continue isolating.
- Ensure symptomatic student remains under visual supervision of a staff member who is at least 6 feet away.
- Require the symptomatic person to wear a cloth face covering or a surgical mask while waiting to leave the facility.
- Require school nurses or delegated school staff who provide direct patient care to wear appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and perform hand hygiene after removing PPE.
- Implement cleaning and disinfecting procedures following CDC guidelines.
- Have a plan for how to transport an ill student or staff member home or to medical care.
- Adhere to the following process for allowing a student or staff member to return to school:
- If a person has had a negative COVID-19test, they can return to school once there is no fever without the use of fever-reducing medicines and they have felt well for 24 hours.
- If a person is diagnosed with COVID-19 by a medical professional based on a test or their symptoms or does not get a COVID-19 test but has had symptoms, they should not be at school and should stay at home until they (or a family member if younger child) can answer YES to the following three questions:
- Has it been at least 10 days since the individual first had symptoms?
- Has it been at least 3 days since the individual had a fever (without using fever reducing medicine)?
- Has it been at least 3 days since the individual’s symptoms have improved, including cough and shortness of breath?
- A person can return to school, following normal school policies, if they receive confirmation of an alternative diagnosis from a health care provider that would explain the COVID-19-like symptom(s), once there is no fever without the use of fever-reducing medicines and they have felt well for 24 hours.
- Notify local health authorities of confirmedCOVID-19 cases among children and staff (as required by NCGS § 130A-136).
- Ensure that if a person with COVID-19 was in the school setting while infectious, school administrators coordinate with local health officials to notify staff and families while maintaining confidentiality in accordance with FERPA, NCGS § 130A-143, and all other state and federal laws.
- If a student/employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19 but does not have symptoms, they must remain out of school until 10 days have passed since the date of their first positive COVID-19 diagnostic test, assuming they have not subsequently developed symptoms since their positive test.
- If a student/employee who has been diagnosed by a medical professional due to symptoms, they are not required to have documentation of a negative test in order to return to school.
- If a student/employee has been determined to have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19, they must remain out of school for 14 days since the last date of exposure unless they test positive In which case, exclusion criteria above would apply. They must complete the full 14 days of quarantine, even if they test negative.
- Provide remote learning options for students unable to be at school due to illness or exposure.