News from the Board -- July 13, 2020

Posted by Jessica Coston on 7/16/2020 4:00:00 PM

 

On Monday, July 13, the Onslow County Board of Education held a special meeting at the Eastern North Carolina Regional Skills Center to discuss OCS return-to-school plans.  

Superintendent Dr. Barry Collins opened the meeting by reminding everyone that the day’s topic of discussion was local plans for each potential option (A, B or C) that may be announced by the state regarding schools returning on August 17. The announcement of which plan would be implemented in the fall, he said, would come directly from the governor later in the week.  
Deputy Superintendent Dr. Beth Folger presented to the Board information regarding the district’s plans for implementing each possible plan enacted by state officials.  

Dr. Folger shared that the district is forming plans for school reopening based on guidelines and requirements outlined in the NCDHHS Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit, NCDPI’s Lighting Our Way Forward: North Carolina’s Guidebook for Reopening Public Schools, and additional requirements as designated by the governor’s executive orders, NCDHHS, North Carolina General Statures, and North Carolina State Board of Education Policy. She also said that OCS is working to meet the needs of our families by recognizing that health and safety are the top priority, understanding that there are mixed feelings about returning to school among staff and families, understanding that students need to be in school for many academic, social and health reasons, and acknowledging that middle and high school students need to be in school with peers as much as elementary students.  

The state’s Plan A, Dr. Folger explained, would allow for a full-scale in-person reopening of public schools with “minimal social distancing.” Under Plan A, districts would be required to allow for social distancing as possible, conduct temperature screenings, require staff and students to wear face coverings and emphasize cleaning and sanitizing schools, among other precautions.  

Plan C would require all students to learn remotely. OCS would provide all students PK-12 a device for the synchronous and asynchronous learning that would occur via Microsoft Teams and other online platforms. Under this plan, students would participate in whole class and small group instruction and receive social-emotional lessons, along with access to a guidance counselor and social worker.  

The state’s Plan B, Dr. Folger said, would present the biggest challenge for the district, as it does allow for in-person instruction, but school buildings can only open at up to 50 percent capacity. Under Plan B, the district would need to require “moderate social distancing,” as well as implement all safety precautions required under Plan A.  

Dr. Folger said that district staff explored several options for how to implement Plan B, should it be enacted by the state, but ultimately narrowed it down to two viable options.  

The first potential option under Plan B would have alternating days within each week of school. Under this option, all students, PK-12, would be assigned a cohort (A or B) which would attend school in-person two days each week and learn remotely three days each week, on an alternating basis. On Monday and Tuesday, Cohort A would meet in-person, while Cohort B participated in remote learning. On Thursday and Friday, Cohort B would meet in-person, while Cohort A did remote learning. All students would participate in remote instruction on Wednesdays to allow time for cleaning, tutoring, and planning. 

This option, according to Dr. Folger, would allow students to interact with their teachers and peers in-person each week. 

The second option for Plan B would also divide all students into two cohorts. Instead of cohorts alternating days within the week, these groups would alternate weeks of in-person and remote instruction. While Cohort A is attending school in-person for an entire week, students in Cohort B would be learning from home. The groups would switch the next week. 

Dr. Folger said this option would provide more continuity for students and families. 

Both options under Plan B would allow for families to be assigned to the same cohort, ensure all students receive equal in-person learning time, feed students doing remote learning at child nutrition hubs, allow for the consideration of all in-person learning being given to self-contained students who do not benefit from remote learning, allow for all students to remain at their enrolled schools, and allow families to opt for the Onslow Virtual School option for full-time online learning. 

Next, Dr. Folger discussed the opening of the Onslow Virtual School, which will provide access to an additional instructional option for students with concerns about returning to school. OVS would provide a personalized, flexible learning environment that provides students with rigorous, standards-aligned learning opportunities in an online setting. Enrollment in OVS would be a choice available to each OCS family, and families would be asked to make a one-year commitment to the program once enrolled. OVS students would be full-time OCS students and would be provided a device, Wi-Fi connection if needed, online curriculum and a NC certified teacher.  

Through their discussion of reopening plans and the potential options for Plan B, Board members approved the local plans for Plans A and C, and asked Chief Communications Officer Brent Anderson if it would be possible to survey staff and families about which option they would prefer for Plan B before making a decision. Mr. Anderson said that he would create and send out a survey later that day to gather feedback.  
The Board unanimously decided to go into recess until Thursday, July 16 at 6 p.m., where they would discuss the feedback received through Mr. Anderson’s survey.  

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