Rowan-Salisbury Schools to stick with plan B until January

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, October 13, 2020

By Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education voted Monday to stick with its current schedule of operations for elementary students — a blend of in-person and online classes — until January.

During a presentation to the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education, Associate Superintendent Kelly Withers outlined how educators feel about the possibility of returning to plan A — full-time, in-person classes — or remaining in plan B — some days online and some in-person. Superintendent Lynn Moody told the board a survey showed district staff prefer to return in January.

Withers said district surveyed high schools and middle schools as well because, even though Gov. Cooper only gave permission for elementary students to return full time, the district is anticipating future changes from Cooper.

Teachers in the survey said they were concerned about plan A because social distancing is not possible on transportation, cleaning the schools will be a challenge, it will take longer to complete health screenings at the beginning of the day and there is no plan for class transitions yet. Another issue is an anticipated resurgence of COVID-19 during flu season.

Schools also would need to be staffed differently, the change would be stressful and the change caries increased COVID-19 exposure risk, survey results stated.

Withers said there would need to be some time between the change to plan A because schools would need time to physically reassemble and modify schedules. And while Moody noted it would be a challenge to return sooner, she said there are also concerns about staying in plan B.

Teachers cited lack of engagement with students and families as well as attendance issues because of plan B. They also pointed to the positive safety improvements and a drastic decline in behavioral problems among students. Most schools wanted to keep Wednesday as a planning day.

For his part, Chief Technology Officer David Blattner noted an overwhelming call volume because of virtual learning. Blattner said the calls have taxed the district’s help desk.

Board member Dean Hunter said the semester has fall break that begins on Wednesday, Thanksgiving break and a holiday break that begins in December and stretches into January.

Moody gave an alternate plan, though not the administration’s preference, of easing into plan A by returning K-2 students in November.

Board Chair Kevin Jones asked Moody if the board needed to take any action, as the district is already operating in plan B. Moody said teachers may appreciate hearing the board’s voice on the issue. The board approved a motion by made by Hunter to return to plan A in January.

The first day of school after the holiday break is Jan. 6, which is a Wednesday, and may be reserved as a teacher work day.

When the district began classes on Aug. 17, Moody said it would be the district’s preference to return to plan A as soon as it was safe to do so.

“We all want to go to plan A,” Moody said. “We’re all desperate to go to plan A.”

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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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