GCS prepares school reopening plansBy Yasmine Regester, Peacemaker Staff Writer / October 2, 2020
The Guilford County School Board of Education approved a phased plan to reopen schools in a 5 to 4 vote at its Thursday, September 24 meeting.
The school board approved a recommendation from Superintendent Dr. Sharon L. Contreras, which brings back pre-K-5 students five days a week, with grades pre-K-2 returning Oct. 20 and grades 3-5 returning Oct. 26. Students at the district’s four public special education schools – Gateway Education Center, Haynes-Inman Education Center, Herbin-Metz Education Center and Christine Greene Education Center – will also return five days a week.
“We are taking a phased approach to reopening, given our limited fiscal and human resources to open fully, bringing back our youngest and most [academically] vulnerable students first, because we know they have the greatest need for face-to-face learning and support,” said Dr. Contreras.
The plan indicates that elementary schools will follow guidance under the state’s Plan B, which means using all available building spaces to allow for social distancing. Two schools – Morehead Elementary and Rankin Elementary – will temporarily house their fifth graders at other sites.
Three schools that serve both elementary and middle grades – The Academy at Lincoln, Allen Jay Prep and Johnson Street Global Studies – will follow the elementary guidance and return to school five days per week. Buildings will undergo deep cleaning every Friday evening.
At the middle school level, students will return for two days of in-person instruction per week, beginning with sixth graders on Oct. 20 and seventh and eighth graders on Oct. 26. Half of the middle school students will attend Mondays and Tuesdays, and the other half on Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays would be reserved for remote instruction to allow for deep cleaning of the buildings between student groups, as well as on Friday evenings.
High school students will follow the same guidelines when they return on January 20, 2021. However, specific groups of middle and high school students, such as students who are homeless, students in foster care, students with disabilities who are served in self-contained classrooms, students in the first years of English language acquisition and students with multiple risk factors will be allowed to return to classrooms on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, beginning on Oct. 20.
GCS leaders maintain that plans to reopen schools depend on whether public health indicators regarding community spread are trending in the right direction. The school reopening plan also covers face covering requirements, daily health screenings, procedures for entering and exiting school buildings, bus transportation procedures, preparing socially distanced classrooms and more.
“Even though we’re moving forward with the gradual re-entry, we still have to be very careful and make certain that we are social distancing. We’re using masks and we’re starting with the youngest children who are least likely to transmit,” Dr. Contreras added, “I understand the ramifications of children not being in school. I also understand the ramifications of forcing this before we’re ready to do this.”
GCS is also asking elementary and middle school parents to fill out a reopening preference form as the district prepares to welcome students back to their classrooms in October.
The reopening preference form asks elementary and middle school parents to indicate if they plan to send their child back to the classroom or register for one of the virtual schools. It also asks parents whether they would be interested in a remote learning option that keeps them enrolled at their current schools. While such an option may not be feasible because of staffing constraints, the district wants to gauge parent interest.
Parents should complete a separate preference form for each elementary and middle school child. The parent preference form, which can be found on the GCS website, should be completed by Friday, Oct. 2, at noon. The deadline to register for the district’s virtual schools has been extended to Friday, Oct. 2, at 5 p.m.
For more information, visit www.gcsnc.com.