With parents, students and staff uncertain about how public schools will re-open this fall, the Dare County Schools (DCS) system has sent out a survey soliciting their input on three instructional frameworks the district is considering if Governor Roy Cooper chooses a plan to re-open school buildings at 50 percent capacity.
With the number of positive coronavirus cases and related hospitalizations in North Carolina rising in recent weeks, Cooper, on July 1, delayed a decision on how schools would re-open. Along with the 50 percent capacity option, often referred to as Plan B, the state is considering a Plan A that would bring all students back into the classroom as well as a Plan C that would consist only of remote learning.
The DCS survey, emailed to parents on July 7, is meant to gauge parent preferences, said DCS Digital Communications Director Keith Parker. Teachers were also sent a similar survey on July 6. The input is valued, said Parker, but isn’t an election to determine which path the district will take.
“We’re in the process of figuring out, of all the things on the table right now, what can DCS realistically do with our resources, manpower and ability – and also what are some of the preferences from our parents to help us guide the decision,” Parker said. “So really, we’re not committing to anything, there’s no vote. We’re just trying to cast sort of a wide net to see what we can do and what our community wants us to do.”
- The first possible framework the district is looking at in the event of a 50-percent-capacity scenario would entail kindergarten through eighth grade students utilizing elementary, middle, and high school campuses to attend school five days while high school students would participate in only remote learning.
- The second option would have all students – elementary, middle and high school – split into two cohorts, each group learning in school classrooms on alternating days of the week while participating in remote learning the other days. Friday would be a remote learning day for all students.
- The third option would also include a mixture of in-person and remote learning, but it would have students in the classroom on alternating weeks rather than alternating days of the week.
All options would require middle and high school students to wear face coverings.
As part of the survey, parents can also indicate that they would prefer virtual learning only during the first semester of the school year, regardless of what re-opening scenario the state implements. According to the survey, virtual learning would include a full day and mandatory attendance and grading for all grade levels. Middle and high school students taking advantage of this option would be permitted to participate in extra-curricular activities and athletics.
“Our goal is to provide the virtual option for every parent regardless of the plan that is chosen by the governor,” Parker acknowledged. The virtual learning option would be available to all students who want to go that route.
If the state moves forward with students back in the classroom – either full-time or at 50 percent capacity – districts across North Carolina will have strict and lengthy guidelines to follow when it comes to daily temperature checks and health screenings, social distancing and sanitation requirements. Those guidelines are outlined in the state-issued document, Lighting Our Way Forward: North Carolina’s Guidebook for Reopening Public Schools.
Parker said Superintendent John Farrelly and the district’s senior leadership team is meeting daily to prepare for re-opening.
“We just want the general public to know that we’re putting one-hundred percent of our effort into this right now to make sure that we get the plan right and that we do everything we can under these circumstances to get school started back and offer it to our parents in a way that is good for everybody,” Parker asserted.