Face-to-face learning returns to Stanly County Schools Jan. 19

Fourth grade teacher Kelly Brant stands in her classroom as she talks to her students who were learning remotely Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021 at Park Brook Elementary School in Brooklyn Park, Minn. While prekindergarten through second grade students returned for in-person learning, the older elementary students will return to the building for class in February. (Christine T. Nguyen/Minnesota Public Radio via AP)

ALBEMARLE — After beginning the 2021 spring semester with a self-imposed “remote learning-only period” for two weeks, some of Stanly County’s students returned to the classroom Tuesday morning. 

“Students who choose face-to-face instruction will return to their normal schedules where K-5 students attend school Monday through Thursday, and students 6-12 attend school on different days based on their cohort,” Stanly County Schools posted in a Jan. 14 news release on its website. “Students who remain virtual could be subject to schedule changes as we accommodate students coming back from virtual to face-to-face.” 

In-person learning, remote learning and hybrid formats are each available to students for the rest of the semester, mirroring the same format that Stanly County Schools used for the majority of the fall semester.  

“We’re very comfortable at this point,” school board chairman Jeff Chance told SCJ on Jan. 18. “We’ve been keeping up with both the county [COVID-19] numbers and our own numbers. At this point, we’re good to go with adequate staff for classrooms plus enough substitute teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and such.” 

Back on Dec. 16, the Stanly County Board of Education held an emergency meeting, unanimously voting in favor of operating through virtual learning for the first two weeks after the holiday break, with the plan of bringing students back to classrooms on Jan. 19. After virtual days and the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday are factored in, only six face-to-face spring semester classes were missed.  

The school board’s hope was that a two-week delay would act as a buffer for an increase in COVID-19 cases after Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations; this decision was in part due to the county’s reported spike in positive COVID-19 cases following Thanksgiving.  

The two-week delay also allowed some extra time to ensure that schools would be fully staffed when they reopened.  

“After the Christmas holidays, we were critical on staff and concerned about not having enough to adequately teach the classroom, feed, and get the kids back and forth,” Chance said. “Plus, we were concerned about what the Christmas spike may do to us as well. We wanted a few extra weeks to see what the numbers would look like there, and we really haven’t changed our numbers since before Christmas — they have remained relatively stable.” 

While the school system didn’t see an increase in numbers, the same can’t be said for the county as a whole.  

On Jan. 14, the Stanly County Health Department reported 5,147 total positive coronavirus cases, with 8.9% (456) of all positive cases within the county being residents 17 years of age and younger. This report came nearly a month after the health department’s Dec. 17 press release that documented 3,791 positive cases with 8.5% (308 cases) occurring in residents 17 and younger. 

“We look forward to seeing our students again in person, but please remember that using safe practices is crucial in halting the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” the school system’s news release continued. “We ask that parents/guardians do not send students to school if they are experiencing any symptoms of the COVID-19 virus.”