Rowan-Salisbury Schools prepares students for learning at home during coronavirus closure

Published 6:11 pm Monday, March 16, 2020

By Carl Blankenship

SALISBURY – Cars filtered into the parking lot at Overton Elementary School slowly on Monday as faculty and staff passed bags to parents through car windows before they pulled away.

The bags were full of materials for students while schools are closed for at least two weeks following an executive order from Gov. Roy Cooper to shutter all K-12 schools in the state. His order is an effort to contain the spread of coronavirus in the state.

K-2 students received iPads in their bags as well. Normally, those students are not issued devices to take home, only using them in classrooms. But the state-wide closure is unprecedented. Overton Principal Candice Austin certainly did not expect to be doing this a week ago.

“It doesn’t even feel real,” Austin said.

All of the bags being given to students were prepared by school staff Monday morning. At Overton, bags lined the hallway of the bus entrance with each child’s name written on the front. Anyone who did not pick up their bag at the school and normally rides the bus could pick up their items at bus stops, but parents had to be there for a student to get an iPad.

Staff were spaced through the hallway, some with gloved hands at the entrance. Lindstrom said there was no one who said they would not be able to pick up their things from the school that day.

“We’re in uncharted territory really,” said Tory Curran, a social worker at Overton, Morgan and Rockwell elementaries said. “We’re kind of doing our best to figure out how we can meet the needs of the children while they’re at home.”

Curran directed people to call 211, which helps connect people with services they need.

Susan Hall has twin fourth graders at Overton, and said she is lucky enough to be able to work full time from home. Hall said she feels good about how things are being handled.

“We just do what we’ve got to do I guess,” Hall said. “There’s not much other choice.”

The packets, inside larger bags with personal belongings, sent home with all elementary school kids were created Sunday morning, with teachers adding more material to them.

Melyssa Pickett is an exceptional children teacher at Overton and she said her teacher assistants created folders and put everything inside.

“Nothing out of the ordinary,” Pickett said. “I just took everything that I do in class and just sent it home.”

Pickett teaches grades 3-5 and her material included a lot of electronic items for iPads, including eBooks and assignments on the education app Showbie. Pickett said she is worried how the closure will affect families and if students will be able to get what they need outside of the school.

“I do hope to be back in a few weeks like they said,” Pickett said. “I really would like to. I teach for a reason.”

COVID-19, the disease caused by this strain of coronavirus, poses a low risk to young people, but is highly infectious and can cause serious respiratory illness in people with compromised immune systems or existing illness. It poses a higher risk to older people.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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