GREENSBORO — As Guilford County Schools leaders get ready to discuss what school will look like when classes resume next month, they’ll be able to see what other districts have already decided or are considering.
On Tuesday, Superintendent Sharon Contreras is expected to share proposals on reopening for the 2020-21 school year in August. But some other North Carolina school districts have already approved or discussed tentative plans on reopening amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Wake County Schools, for example, is telling families to expect students to attend school as one of three rotating groups, with each group getting two weeks of remote learning for every one week of in-person instruction.
Districts are still waiting to hear whether Gov. Roy Cooper will allow in-person instruction at all, and if so, whether it will be with “minimal” or “moderate” social distancing. Cooper earlier outlined three scenarios for how school could look, and said school systems could decide to be more restrictive but could not be less restrictive than the scenario he chooses. The scenarios he has proposed are: minimal distancing (A), moderate distancing (B) and remote learning only (C).
He delayed a planned announcement July 1 but said Thursday he plans to make a decision this week.
Some districts haven’t narrowed in on a plan, but have either voted on or heard proposals from their superintendents about how their districts might handle the “B” scenario that would require moderate social distancing. That scenario would require 6 feet between people at all times in school buildings and total occupancy not to exceed 50% of the maximum allowed for fire codes, according to information on state requirements presented by Guilford County Schools leaders on Thursday. That’s similar to requirements for businesses that have been allowed to reopen.
Durham Public Schools Board of Education voted that if the school district does Plan B, it would do in-person teaching for pre-K through eighth grade students. High school students, with some exceptions, would do just online instruction, freeing up the high school facilities to help reduce density for middle school and elementary students.
The Plan B Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s superintendent has proposed calls for three groups in a rotating week schedule like Wake County, but with a twist. Ninth through 11th grade would attend in person four days in their assigned week on campus, while seniors would not be part of the weekly rotation and instead attend school one day per week every week.
Leaders of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools have looked at multiple options for a Plan B. Most recently, they talked about daily in-person instruction for grades K-6, special needs students and English language learners, and two days a week for grades 7-9. For students in grades 10-12 there would be four days a week of online education, with Wednesdays set aside for personal meetings or tutoring sessions. Seating would be reduced on buses to allow social distancing, and spots would be assigned first-come, first served.
“This is not a perfect plan, but it’s affordable to us,” Superintendent Angela Hairston told the school board last week, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.
Contreras said at a work session for Guilford County board members Tuesday night that figuring out how many children can fit with social distancing is so complicated that it’s hard for her to imagine how other large school districts in North Carolina have been able to present options on Plan B to their boards already.
Going classroom by classroom to figure out how many students can fit under different scenarios has been a tedious but necessary undertaking, Contreras said. She wants to avoid the district adopting an idea only to have to scrap it if they discover they can’t make it work.
“We don’t want parents to have to go back two and three times trying to switch their child care plans,” she said.
Besides space, another complication is staffing. If a district does in-person instruction, rules that decrease the number of students that will fit in a classroom mean fewer students per teacher.
The state isn’t providing any more teachers, Contreras said, so simply finding more classrooms won’t help the problem if there’s no one to teach the students who are now in a second classroom because they wouldn’t fit in the first.
She said she is planning to present proposals for scenarios A, B and C at Tuesday’s meeting, with options for scenario B. School board members aren’t expected to vote on any of it that night.
Instead, they are expecting to vote at some point later this month, after Cooper announces his decision.
The board’s attorney Jill Wilson said if the COVID-19 situation changes mid year, they hope to be in a position to shift between approved A, B, and C plans, if needed.