MC Board of Education outlines school start up scenarios

All students 5 days a week for Highlands & Nantahala

The Macon County Board of Education sent out a survey to all parents on Wednesday to solicit input regarding how schools will be held this Fall. 

As it stands, due to the number of students Highlands School and Nantahala School should be allowed to have all students attend schools in person, five days a week. 

Still, the survey sent to parents will help Highlands School and schools across the district get a better idea surrounding parents’ intent for schooling this Fall. 

“Parents had no say whatsoever in March about what their child’s education would look like, so this survey is important to give parents the opportunity to have a say,” said Macon County Schools Superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin. 

During Monday night’s live-streamed MC BOE meeting, emails previously sent by parents were read. 

The gist was that some parents wanted in-person school, some wanted remote options, some even suggested year-round school to accommodate the various stipulations regarding the number of students and social distancing.

Governor Roy Cooper announced last week that all schools in North Carolina will operate under Plan B, which requires moderate social distancing for starters. While that could change before the August 17 start date, Macon County Schools is moving forward with developing operational plans based on Plan B requirements. 

At Board of Education meeting the board learned that for various reasons, more children have registered for classes at Macon County Schools this year. Therefore, schools in the Franklin area have to work out a way to have fewer students in the schools at a time to adhere to the state’s social distancing guidelines. 

For the Franklin area schools, the Board of Education is proposing two options for parents — alternating days or alternating weeks, with half of students going either every other day, or half of students going every other week. 

Under the alternating days option, group “A” of students would go to school on Monday and Wednesday, and group “B” would attend school on Tuesday and Thursday, with Friday being a remote learning day for all students. 

Closing school on Fridays would also give the schools a chance to sanitize all surfaces in the buildings. In addition, Fridays would be used for remedial instruction opportunities as well as tutoring for students in need. Also, though students will not be physically in the classroom, there will be remote work and assignments to be completed at home. 

The other option being presented to parents is alternating weeks. Under this plan, group “A” would attend school Monday through Thursday of one week, with group “B” attending the next week for in-person classes; again Fridays would be for remote learning and sanitizing the school buildings. 

On the weeks students are not in the schools, they will still have remote assignments and work to be completed. 

Dr. Baldwin told the board that whichever plan the school board chooses to open under, they will make sure that siblings will be in the same group (A or B) so parents can send their children to school at the same time.

For those families who are not comfortable attending in-person school, a third option of fully remote instruction will be offered to all parents, of all grades, in all schools. 

Macon County Schools will be launching a Virtual Academy that will be staffed separately from the school system and will allow students to operate fully remotely, while still being part of the Macon County School system. Registration for the Virtual Academy is required and must be completed by July 31. 

Dr. Baldwin emphasized that the survey needs to be completed as soon as possible, in order to gather the responses and decide which plan to go with for the coming school year. 

Parents should complete a survey for each child in each grade in their home by 4 p.m., Wed., July 29. The school board will be holding a special called meeting next Thursday, July 30, to decide which plan to approve for schools to re-open specifically in the Franklin area.

Click HERE to take the survey. 

Reopening guidelines 

Macon County Schools developed an eight-page detailed guide to reopening schools for in-person instruction which covers requirements for temperature screenings every morning once a child arrives at the school, masks required for all students and faculty and extensive sanitizing and cleaning throughout the day. 

Cafeteria meals – both breakfast and lunch – will be provided in classrooms to promote social distancing and when children are not at the school for in-person instruction, meals will be sent home to students. 

Transition in the halls will be limited, with one-way direction in the hallways and students remaining in the classroom whenever feasible. 

Each student in Macon County, regardless of whether they elect for in-person instruction or remote instruction, will be assigned an iPad for the coming school year to use for lessons and schoolwork. 

Internet hotspots and jet packs will be provided to families who don’t have internet or even reliable internet at home. Various community locations such as churches and fire departments have also been solicited to help families with limited internet access. 

School visitors will not be allowed, and all field trips are discontinued until further notice. 

In the event of exposure for students or teachers, the MC Health Department will be the ultimate authority in deciding if a building has to close or if a classroom has to quarantine. These things will be addressed on a case-by-case basis and evaluated by the health department. 

Transportation will be limited, and students will be required to wear a face mask while on the bus. 

Students on buses will be seated one child per seat, or two if there are siblings to reduce interaction while riding the school bus. 

By Brittney Lofthouse

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