News from the Board -- March 13, 2020

Posted by Jessica Coston on 3/13/2020 4:30:00 PM

On Friday, March 13, the Onslow County Board of Education held an emergency meeting to receive and discuss the latest information regarding COVID-19.  

OCS Superintendent Dr. Barry Collins started the meeting by saying that this is a time that the district has the opportunity to be calm, cautious, and deliberate as decisions are made regarding COVID-19. In his opening remarks, Dr. Collins clarified  that, as of 11 a.m. on March 13, there were no plans to close Onslow County Schools. Dr. Collins said that that could change as circumstances change, and that the district plans to follow guidance from the Onslow County Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He also stated that the primary goals of Friday’s meeting were to discuss the latest information on COVID-19, get Board guidance on some of the decisions staff were facing, and hear from instructional staff on the district’s preparedness to move to digital forms of instruction in the event of school closures.  

The first topic of discussion, presented by OCS Chief Operations Officer Steve Myers, was the issue of facility usage agreements and how those should be handled currently and moving forward as the COVID-19 situation develops in our area. He said that while the district has canceled all extracurriculars and after school activities, a decision needed to be made regarding outside organizations, like before and after school care programs and churches, that use district facilities on nights and weekends.  

After much discussion regarding the types of organizations that use the facilities, the impact families would see following the closures of before and after care programs, and how to best make meaningful reductions in exposure, Board member Jeff Hudson made a motion that encompassed all of the guidance the Board had discussed.   

Mr. Hudson made a motion to affirm the actions the Superintendent has taken to date to protect staff and students from the Coronavirus; and to affirm following CDC guidelines regarding school closures based on events as they occur in our community; and will not  enact new rentals of facilities at this time; and with existing rentals of indoor facilities, encourage our tenants to limit gatherings to the extent possible; and if they choose to continue gatherings in our facilities, we will require a surcharge for disinfecting that portion of the facility they have rented so that we can  better protect students and staff; and establish a trigger point for the Superintendent that either upon recommendation by the Onslow County Health Department or the first community confirmed  positive for Coronavirus, that the Superintendent would notify our tenants and schools that we would suspend for a period of time their rental of school facilities until advised otherwise by the Onslow County Health Department, the CDC or other government agency. The motion was seconded by Mr. Wiggins and unanimously adopted by the Board.  

Following the decision regarding facility usage, the Board heard from OCS Deputy Superintendent Dr. Beth Folger, who shared the district’s plans for switching to digital instruction in the event of school closures. Dr. Folger shared that district is ahead of many other school systems when it comes to preparation for instruction going fully digital. All OCS student, grades 3-12, have school-issued devices and are well-versed in many of the tools that would be used for potential digital instruction.  

Content such as iReady, Reading Eggs, ACT Prep, AP Content, and more are available to students in the cloud. Other  programs, such as Ready Math, Plato, and Study Island, would allow teachers to select specific content and lessons and push them out to students entirely digitally. For students without access to the internet at home, Dr.  Folger said that students could use their devices by connecting to public Wi-Fi sources. OCS Chief Technology Officer Jeff Pittman also said that instructional technology staff are aware of the accessibility gap in the county when it comes to internet connection and have been working with service providers to expand access and distribute Mi-Fi devices to students, in addition to the more than 275 already distributed.  

For grades K-2, Dr. Folger said that teachers would be able to cover content through paper packets and worksheets.  
 

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