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GCS welcomes another round of students back to school

In Guilford County Schools, all elementary school students returned January 5. Due to the pandemic, remote instruction will continue for sixth grade and Middle School students. After schools are COVID-compliant, some sixth grader students will return January 21 at their respective schools, and all Middle School students will return to in-person instruction on January.
Photos by Ivan Saul Cutler/Carolina Peacemaker

Through face masks and cheers, Guilford County Schools (GCS) welcomed back grades 3-5 on January 5. Students who hadn’t been back to school since COVID-19 shut them down in March 2020 boarded the buses to continue their second semester of the 2020-2021 school year.

According to district surveys, more than 60 percent prefer in-person learning, said Dr. Nora Carr, GCS Chief of Staff. She noted that although there were some concerns about students returning to in-person learning, students were adapting well to the new rules, such as wearing masks and social distancing.

“There was a lot of fear and concern about whether children would be able to comply and if they would find this burdensome or impossible to do and the kids are doing amazingly well,” said Dr. Carr.

District leaders announced on January 4 that there would be a delay to the start of in-person learning for middle school students by two weeks. A previously approved plan scheduled sixth graders to return on January 7. Instead, those students will start on January 21. Grades 7 and 8 were originally scheduled to return for in-person learning on January 11, but will now return on January 25. Middle schoolers will continue with online learning until then. According to the district, they are continuing to distribute electronic devices to all students who still need one.

For grades 6-8 and high school, 50 percent will attend on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the other 50 percent will attend on Thursdays and Fridays, with Wednesdays reserved for deep cleaning days. Grades 3-5 will attend school five days a week as normal.

Grades 9-12 is currently set to return January 21, but Carr said the COVID-19 data for that age group is more concerning. The Guilford County Board of Education is scheduled to discuss high school reentry at its January 12 board meeting.

The schools transitioning back into in-person learning will also impact meal distribution. The district announced on January 4 that buses that had previously been used for mobile meal sites must now go back to transporting students. However, meals will still be served at 31 schools set up as school meal locations. Any person under the age of 18 in Guilford County can pick up a meal from one of the sites. Meals may be picked up between 11 a.m. and noon.