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Moody advises school board to ‘stay the course’ on plan B

By Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Superintendent Lynn Moody says she’s concerned about future planning around COVID-19 that could bring students into classrooms more days a week and ultimately reduce in-person instructional time because of the potential for increased COVID-19 infections.

If students can no longer maintain social distance, one infection would require more students to quarantine, taking them out of the classroom completely for two weeks, Moody told the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education Monday night. She said bringing more students back could lead to a greater number of infections as well, which she called concerning because it could lead to entire grade levels or schools having to shut down if the issues compound.

The state has seen steadily rising infections along with a surge of deaths for weeks as Gov. Roy Cooper has begun tightening gathering restrictions in response. But infection have not been as prevalent in public schools as feared and one nearby district, Kannapolis City Schools, used an opening provided by Cooper to bring elementary students back to class full time.

Moody advised the board to “stay the course” on the district’s blended schedule for the foreseeable future, saying that the board should take time to evaluate how other districts fare in bringing back students. She advised the board to review the issue at every meeting going forward. The district will tell families about staying safe during the holidays and hope they will not bring infections spread within homes back to schools after Thanksgiving and winter breaks, she said.

The board already declared its intent to revisit returning to plan A in January, though that motion functionally meant the board did not plan to immediately change the blended model. The district could send elementary students back right now if the board mandated, but its hands are tied by Cooper’s orders surrounding social distancing and student density for middle and high school students.

Moody advised the board to give the district 30 days from an announcement about the ability to return to full, in-person instruction and suggested a possible return in March that would allow students to attend in-person for the last nine weeks after the weather begins to warm and there is the possibility of a vaccine in sight.

Moody will retire on Dec. 31 and will likely no longer be superintendent when the district decides to return.

Board member Josh Wagner asked the board to keep in mind the negative impact extended virtual learning is having on students, adding while his own children have a strong support system at home he is worried about others who do not.

Dean Hunter echoed Wagner’s concern about how much students could be losing under the blended model.

“We don’t love it,” Moody said. “It’s not perfect by any means.”

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