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Easing Restrictions On Elementary Grades

The Jackson County Board of Education approved a plan at their regular business meeting on September 22 that allows Prekindergarten through 5th grade students to attend school in-person four days per week beginning October 5.

Administrators recommended the plan following the announcement by Governor Roy Cooper that school districts will be permitted to move elementary grades to the state’s “Plan A” which eases restrictions and allows a greater number of students to occupy each classroom.

The move was welcome news for district administrators who have spent the past several months managing the stress and frustration that COVID-19 has caused for parents, teachers and students.

“Remote learning is working for some students, but for the vast majority, it is not working as well as we would like,” Interim Superintendent Dr. Tony Tipton said.

Beginning October 5, Prekindergarten through 5th grade students will attend school Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday with Wednesday being a remote learning day for all students.  Middle and high school grades will continue following the AA/BB plan where students attend in-person two days per week on a staggered schedule.  Remote-only instruction is optional for all families.

Even though more elementary students will be attending school together once the new plan takes effect, Tipton is confident that schools can maintain a safe environment.

“I think we’ve learned lessons over the past six weeks, so we understand more today than we did the first day of school,” Tipton said.  “We believe with those lessons learned, we will be able to move forward safely.”

Classroom teachers will be asked to keep students in small groups known as “pods” with minimal interaction between the groups.  If a child in one group tests positive for the virus, only members of that group will be required to quarantine.  A similar model is currently being used successfully in the athletics program, and district leaders believe it will also be effective in classrooms.

Transportation is not expected to be significantly affected by the new plan, but some pick-up and drop-off times may be later if buses are carrying additional students.

Despite the state’s easing of restrictions on elementary classrooms, Tipton is adamant that this is not the time to relax in the fight against COVID-19.

“We know that social distancing, wearing a mask and washing our hands are the three keys that allowed us to move forward, and they are the keys that will allow us to stay in this plan.”

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