Return to Learn Update: March 16, 2021
BOE Approves Moving Grades 6-12 to Plan A on April 12
Dear Catawba County Schools families,
We have exciting news to share:
Last night during an emergency called meeting, the Catawba County Schools Board of Education unanimously approved the return of grades 6-12 to “Plan A,1” beginning April 12. With this change, all grades K-12 will be attending Monday through Thursday, keeping Friday as a remote learning day.
The main difference between “Plan A” and “Plan B” is the amount of social distancing required. According to the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit (the guidance by which all NC public schools must abide), “Plan B” requires a minimum of 6’ between everyone and no more than 50% building capacity, while Plan A requires “minimal social distancing.”
Why did we decide to move grades 6-12 from “Plan B” to “Plan A”?
- By being in accordance with the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit and our local health department’s recommendations, we have proven that CCS students can safely attend in-person with minimum social distancing, as have grades K-5 since the Fall.
- Many 6th-12th grade students are struggling with their grades and need more in-person learning.
- Many 6th-12th grade students are struggling with social-emotional needs and would benefit from the routine and connection that more in-person learning would provide.
- Grades K-5 have been safely operating in “Plan A” since the Fall and we feel confident that we can do the same for grades 6-12 by following the same safety protocols.
Why attend four days per week and not five?
- In the event of a quarantine, having a three-day separation (Friday-Sunday) means fewer students will miss school given the updated NCDHHS guidance that students may return to learn after just 7 days with a negative rapid antigen test.2
- We have approximately 1,400 students learning from teachers who are teaching both in-person and online students and they need Fridays to meet the needs of their virtual students.
- Going from two days to four days per week doubles the amount of time that students will be with their teachers. We believe this will help re-establish new routines and help students feel less disconnected.
Why April 12?
- By April 12, at least 85% of our certified staff will be fully vaccinated and have reached full immunity according to health recommendations.
- We are still trying to maintain as much social distancing as possible and it will take time to arrange buildings and classrooms accordingly. We also will be actively working on the logistics of all of our students arriving and departing at the same time, experiencing class changes at the same time, and more.
Can students switch to or from 100% virtual learning with this decision? Or can students choose to only attend in-person two days per week?
- No. Families made a year-long commitment at the beginning of the school year and chose either the “ABC Plan” with its variability (moving between Plans A, B, or C) or the 100% Virtual Learning plan. Therefore, there will be no switching choices at this time for continuity of learning and staffing.
- We will continue offering 100% virtual learning for our current all-virtual students
Will there be any changes to bus transportation?
- There will no longer be any capacity restrictions on our buses. Therefore, students may be sitting two or three to a seat. We highly encourage parents to continue driving their students to and from school, if at all possible.
Will students and staff still be screened for symptoms before entering our school buildings? Will everyone still be required to wear a face-covering?
- Absolutely! Safety has been our driving priority throughout the pandemic and we know that our measures have been working.
- Catawba County Public Health Director, Jennifer McCracken’s statement on 3/12/21 says, “Based on what we have seen so far, our reopened schools have exercised an abundance of caution, including a strong emphasis on the 3 Ws, to help keep people safe and stop the spread of illness at school.”
Do all of our middle and high school classrooms have enough space to allow for three feet of distancing while operating at full capacity?
- In most cases, we will have at least 3 feet between students, but it will depend on how many students are in the class and the size of the classroom.
- We will be spending the next few weeks working with each school to ensure that we follow the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit guidance of “minimal social distancing.”
How do the county- or state-level COVID-19 metrics influence our decision?
- Our system continues to hover around 20 positive cases total, between students and staff. We have seen it as high as almost 100 and as low as zero. Our staff and students have done an excellent job wearing masks and washing their hands while at school.
- We feel confident, based on the single instance of a cluster in all our academic settings since August 17th, we can be successful.
- With that being said, we have had only two clusters in athletics, where students are not minimally distanced from each other; and in many cases, exchange bodily fluids if students are in contact during the contest and practice.
- In the classrooms, we can say with confidence, that we will not have students in that close of contact.
We hope you can share in our excitement that by returning grades 6-12 to “Plan A,” we are one step closer to normalcy for our students and families. Thank you for your continued partnership in helping our students be successful academically and emotionally. I will be in touch as it gets closer with more specifics.
1Senate Bill 220 was signed last Thursday evening giving North Carolina public schools district like ours the green light to re-open all grades in “Plan A.”
2 StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit - page 16