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KCS students staying all virtual through Feb. 15

KANNAPOLIS — Kannapolis City Schools students will be out of the classroom until mid-February after a decision to stay virtual for another month.

Last week, the district’s Board of Education voted to continue with “plan C,” or all-virtual learning, which students began this month after winter break. Tuesday would have been the first day back in school for students if in-person learning resumed, though virtual classes began Jan. 5.

The board, in a split vote, decided to begin the second semester virtually amid concerns about the accelerating spread of COVID-19. The viral pandemic has continued to climb and school officials cited an expected spike after Christmas requiring a shutdown and wanting to make a decision ahead of time.

KCS Superintendent Chip Buckwell said he made the recommendation to extend virtual-only through Feb. 15 taking into account positivity rates in Rowan and Cabarrus counties, absentee rates and hospitalizations. He said the data painted a gloomy picture of where the community is in the pandemic, but also sees light at the end of the tunnel through mass vaccination.

Schools and childcare centers have been grappling with keeping doors open as new infections and quarantine rates have made it difficult to keep facilities and services staffed properly.

For the week of Jan. 4, the district reported six news cases and 15 quarantines. As of Monday the district reported six new cases and 14 quarantines with 1.9% of the school population in quarantine and 0.8% positive.

Rowan-Salisbury Schools began in-person classes on Jan. 6. The district surveyed staff to see if it would have enough personnel to open facilities. It has remained open and cases peaked the first week of January.

Buckwell said the district would have been in the same staffing situation if it opened doors in January as it was when it began winter break. Teachers were having to cover more than one class and central office staff were filling in at schools to get the district through the lead up to winter break.

Buckwell maintains the stance that schools are one of the safest places students and teachers can be because of the required precautions, but when community spread reaches a certain level it is not possible to have classes in person.

RSS has faced similar concerns about keeping enough staff running facilities and in classrooms. Retired Superintendent Lynn Moody described the district as “on the brink” of having to close facilities in December.

KCS Board Chair Todd Adams said district staff have been pushed hard and are tired, but they have gone above and beyond for students. Adams said he wants students to be in class in person when they can be safely.

Adams said he is looking for numbers to be moving in the right direction and positivity rates declining as well as mass vaccination. He said those will all be positive signs.

“I know our students and I know their needs,” Adams said, adding he did not understand  what some kids go through at home until he began serving on the board.

Adams, who teaches in Charlotte, also said he thinks teachers are getting better at virtual instruction every day.

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