ALBEMARLE — While Stanly County’s students, parents and teachers don’t know yet how the entirety of their spring academic calendar will play out, they now know that the semester will begin entirely remotely when they return from the holidays on Jan. 7.
At a special-called meeting of the Stanly County Board of Education, board members unanimously voted in favor of operating through virtual learning for the first two weeks after holiday break. Students would then be brought back to classrooms on Jan. 19, unless the board sees reason to maintain remote learning.
The primary reason for the board’s decision to delay the return to in-person learning is the county’s reported spike in positive COVID-19 cases following Thanksgiving break, with the hope that a two-week delay will act as a buffer zone for an increase in cases after Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations.
“After Thanksgiving, we pretty much had what I would call an exponential growth curve in our numbers with COVID-19,” SCS Superintendent Dr. Jarrod Dennis told the school board. “My team and I have been meeting and going over different options, because we saw what is going to be inevitable after the holidays.”
Using a slideshow presentation, Dennis explained that while the remote-only learning format is the plan that provides the least COVID-19 exposure to students and staff, he knows that some students struggle with the lack of classroom learning and that the remote-only format can cause staff furloughs in hard-to-staff areas.
Even with that in mind, the school system administration concluded that a two-week delay is the correct route of action and gave that opinion through the superintendent’s presentation to the board.
“We would like to see a delayed return in face-to-face,” Dennis said. “A lot of this is totally predicated upon resources and the lack thereof that we think will be impending due to an uptick in COVID-19 cases coming after the holidays.”
Students will be able to return to their classrooms on Jan. 19 if they choose to come back to a physical setting. At that time, in-person learning, remote learning and hybrid formats will be available. Based on this current plan, only six face-to-face class days will be missed after virtual days and the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday are factored in.
The free meal program that the Stanly County School System has used will resume through the options of pickup or bus delivery. Between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on weekdays, meals will be available for families to pick up at Albemarle Middle School, North Stanly Middle School, South Stanly Middle School and West Stanly Middle School.
On Dec. 17, the Stanly County Health Department released its latest batch of COVID-19 numbers, reporting 3,791 total positive coronavirus cases, 2,919 recovered cases, 16 hospitalizations and 89 deaths. According to age demographics, 8.5% (308 cases) of all positive cases within the county have been residents 17 years of age and younger.
The department is currently monitoring 786 individuals who have tested positive recently, including four cases of reinfection where an individual has tested positive again after at least 12 weeks of their first infection.
The Stanly County Board of Education’s next regularly scheduled meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Jan. 5, two days before students begin their spring semester with two weeks of virtual learning.