RSS to talk COVID-19 attendance options

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 21, 2021

SALISBURY — The Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education will consider next steps for attendance amid the COVID-19 pandemic on Monday.

Associate Superintendent Kelly Withers will present an update on the district’s COVID-19 status, recent developments and possible options during the board’s Monday meeting.

The report will include a pair of options going forward, including remaining in the district’s blended plan B model for the rest of the school year and adding four days a week of instruction for special-needs groups. The other option would return elementary students in person four days a week, as allowed by Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive orders, beginning March 22.

The district is requesting a month to make changes to reroute buses, move furniture and obtain additional personal protective equipment if the district decides to return elementary students to school full time.

The state is planning to begin making vaccines available for school staff by this week and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends opening schools for in-person instruction when transmission of COVID-19 is “low or moderate,” and “physical distancing of six feet or more to the greatest extent possible.”

The guidelines still recommend wearing masks, cleaning facilities and other precautions. The first COVID-19 cluster in the district, made up of seven students at Corriher-Lipe Middle School, was recorded by the state on Tuesday.

The district has held in-person classes all year and avoided clusters even during the height of the pandemic in December and early January. On Jan. 19, Matthew Beaver, a physical education teacher at Knox Middle School, died after contracting COVID-19.

In other meeting agenda items:

• An appraiser is expected to have a report for the district on the Faith Elementary School property. Faith Academy, a new charter school, rescinded its offer on the property on Monday to move ahead bringing in mobile units as it prepares to begin classes this fall.

The board voted to wait until the appraisal was complete to move ahead disposing of the property two weeks ago. Faith and Enochville elementary schools will close permanently at the end of this school year.

• The district will review a proposed contract with N.C. State University for evaluation of the progress resulting from a $26.3 million federal grant. The $450,000 cost will be funded out of the grant monies.

The grant, which has been described as a teacher incentive grant, is intended to accelerate the district’s renewal plan. There are several required costs associated with the grant, including positions created to administer it.

• Administration will recommend Henderson Independent School remain at its current location for next school year. A committee is discussing possibilities of relocating the program to high schools or into a leased space. The program serves a low, fluctuating number of students.

• A budget amendment on the meeting’s consent agenda represents normal funding allocations, with the exception of $1.4 million in state revenue, a large part of which is funding from the CARES Act.

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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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