ALBEMARLE — With less than a month until the state’s required reopening date of Aug. 17, Stanly County Schools is working to quickly implement the governor’s direction to have schools use both face-to-face instruction with social distancing measures, as well as remote instruction.
Interim superintendent Vicki Calvert and assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction Dr. Amy Blake-Lewis held a virtual call with SCJ to give details on the plan and how it would be implemented.
“Intent to return” forms
They both said the most important thing for parents to be aware of at his moment is the “intent to return” form, which can be found on the Stanly County Schools website. One form for each student needs to be returned to the district by July 31 at 5 p.m. so they can know how many students to prepare for, how many staff will be needed, where to send buses and many other important decisions.
Not filling out the form can have a negative impact on the student as well, locking them into an option they did not want and reducing transportation options.
“So because our transportation is limited, if they do not complete this by July 31, they are not guaranteed a seat on the bus the first day of school,” Calvert said. “We want every family to complete one form for every child that is school aged. We ask, do they want the full remote learning or do you want to have the face-to-face instructions. And then depending on their selections, it will guide them through some questions. We’re going to ask them about their connectivity in their home, whether they have a device that they can use for the remote learning. We’re going to ask them about transportation, do you need transportation in the morning, in the afternoon or you don’t need transportation.”
Calvert emphasized they “need 100% participation,” and if parents have any questions on how to fill out the form, they can contact their child’s school. Once a form is submitted though, the child will be committed to that decision for at least one semester.
“In other words, if you say you want full remote instruction, then two or three weeks later, you say, we’re going to send them back to school, we can’t do that because the staffing,” Calvert said. “So we’d ask for a full semester commitment, and then we can revisit at the end of that semester.”
Each school can make adjustments to the plan in collaboration with the district, but the “shell of a plan,” as Calvert called it, will be as follows:
For Kindergarten through 4th grade, students will have full-time in-person classes at their usual schools. The students will be spaced out in the classrooms, so their desks will have 6 feet of distance from other students.
Those in 5th grade, who are usually included in elementary schools, will be moved to the middle school elective wings in order to create the necessary space in elementary schools for social distancing. The 5th graders will still be taught by elementary-certified teachers.
“So they’re still going to very much feel like they’re 5th graders in an elementary school setting, but we’re simply housing them at a middle school building,” Blake-Lewis said.
The 5th graders will, however, join the rest of those at the middle schools in being on an A/B schedule. Middle schoolers will rotate back and forth between these two groups, with one being on campus for face-to-face instruction, and the other being at home receiving remote instruction using the Canvas platform.
The high schools will be on an A/B/C rotation, so the students will have two weeks of remote learning for every week of face-to-face instruction. Which week will be in-person depends on if they are in group A, B or C. The same teacher will be responsible for instructing the student whether they are on a remote or in-person week.
“We basically looked at what our students’ ages were and what was developmentally appropriate,” said Blake-Lewis. “Our youngest, the K-4, needed that face-to-face instruction the most, so that’s what we emphasized, and then gradually released a little bit more remote instruction as those students age and can take on a little more responsibility.”
Blake-Lewis also noted that both middle and high schools will be running abbreviated schedules, releasing at 1:35 for high school and 1:20 for middle school. This will allow the teachers to have office hours for those doing remote learning that week.
“The time at the end of the day, from 1:30 to 3:30, is for teachers to manage that remote learning, so they’ll be able to actually be available for those students who are doing remote learning.”
In the survey that SCS sent to parents in June, 29% said they did not feel comfortable sending their children back to school at all. So for any parents who feel that way, they will be permitted to attend school entirely online without the rotations of face-to-face weeks.
“The governor, and I think it was a surprise to a lot of folks, but he said everyone will wear a mask, K-12,” Calvert said. “And I think that’s a concern especially in our lower elementary grades. So I want to clarify, masks will need to be worn during transition times — like, arrival to school, departure, transitioning in the hall, when they’re going to be less than 6 feet apart.”
Calvert said that when the students are sitting in their desks though, they will not need to keep the masks on because the desks will be placed 6 feet apart. So for most of the day, because they will remain in the same room, they will not need to wear the masks. But they will need to wear masks as they transition and on the bus.
“For the most part, like in our elementary schools, those students will remain in their classroom, and the art and music and PE teachers will come to the classroom. Their lunches will more than likely be delivered to the classroom,” Calvert said.
She also mentioned that the district was happy to hear that the state would be providing five masks for each student and staff member.
“We did not know until the governor’s announcement that they were going to provide that. I can tell you, we had already started looking to make that purchase ourselves, and it was going to cost us about $100,000. So we’re very thankful that the state will be providing that.”
On SCS administration during the year
“We don’t have a timeline,” Calvert said on when the new superintendent would be announced. “It depends on the quality of the applicant. I know the board is currently reviewing the applications, but at this point I don’t have a timeline.”
One name will definitely not be announced as the superintendent though, that of current interim superintendent Vicki Calvert.
“No, I am not,” she laughed when asked if she was one of the applicants. “I will tell you, I am too close to the end of my career, and I am not applying. My goal here is to provide consistency and to support our staff that do a phenomenal job. I’ve been with the district for 28 years, so I’ve built a lot of relationships here, and I care about what happens in Stanly County. I just wanted to help out and provide that consistency and that support, especially during this process.”
Calvert said when the governor delayed his announcement on how schools should reopen, they were very concerned. But they decided to begin planning for B — the option with some remote and some face-to-face instruction — because it would be the most difficult to pull off.
“Had the governor come out with another option it would have been easier to switch to one of those,” Calvert said. “And yes, time is of concern, and I will tell you, we’re doing all we can to be ready. We need the community and everyone to come together, all stakeholders. Will things come up that we haven’t planned for, or will there be some adjustments that we’ll need to make? Absolutely, this is brand new for all of us.”
Calvert said, even though they are moving forward with Plan B, they are fully prepared for another major shift if conditions on the ground change.
“All plans are contingent — it could change, depending on our metrics in our county in terms of confirmed cases and staff availability.”