School districts receive some guidance for reopening

School districts receive some guidance for reopening
June 17
15:23 2020

State leaders have unveiled guidelines to reopen public schools in the fall, but a final decision isn’t expected to be made until later this month.

Last week the State Board of Education approved the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Tool Kit (K-12). The 26-page guide for reopening schools was created through collaboration between the State Department of Public Instruction and the Department of Health and Human Services, and includes a list of requirements and some recommendations and plans for different scenarios, depending on the spread of COVID-19 and other metrics.

District leaders are being asked to center reopening plans on three different scenarios. Plan A, which is the least likely of the three to be used, calls for minimal social distancing and will be implemented if COVID-19 metrics stabilize and don’t get worse. Plan B calls for social distancing restrictions and reduced density. And Plan C calls for remote learning only and suspends all in-person learning.

When discussing the state’s guidelines, Dionne Jenkins, general counsel of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools (WS/FCS), said state leaders are analyzing various metrics and will make a final decision by July 1. According to Jenkins, no matter which plan state leaders choose to implement, there are several requirements that each school must meet next school year including: six feet markings in areas where students and staff may gather; limiting non-essential visitors and activities; re-evaluating how students arrive and leave; and several others.

Schools will also be required to monitor students for symptoms and perform “symptom screenings” for everyone entering the school building or school transportation vehicle. Districts will also have to create a policy to allow students and staff to leave school if they exhibit COVID-19 like symptoms.

Another requirement mandates that if students or staff come in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, they must quarantine for 14 days, even if they test negative.

“Under these monitoring requirements, we have to conduct symptom screenings of any person entering the buildings or getting onboard any of our school vehicles, any visitors that come to the building upon their arrival at the school,” Jenkins said. “There is an option for parents to submit what they call a parent attestation form, so in lieu of a staff member doing the screening of the child, the parent will be able to submit the form that they have pre-filled out.”

With the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 still on the rise across the state and thousands of parents already inquiring about virtual learning options, schools are likely to open under a combination Plan B and C, which will call for district leaders to make some tough decisions to address density restrictions. 

Plan B requires schools to limit the maximum occupancy of all faculties and transportation vehicles to 50%. To account for these changes, the district has explored implementing an “A Week”/”B Week” scheduling system, where students will be split into two groups and alternate between in-person learning and virtual learning weekly.

Superintendent Angela Hairston said district leaders are working diligently to prepare for the upcoming school year. She said, “Each time there is a phase of reopening, we collectively work on the guidelines and look at guidelines to see what we need to get done and what we can do.” Hairston said the district has established a team to take a closer look at the district’s re-entry plan. She mentioned district leaders are also working with the health department on the reopening process. The WS/FCS Board of Education has also established a special committee that focuses on COVID-19 findings and how it affects local schools. 

“As we move into phase 3 of the reopening, we’ve been given some guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Public Instruction … that is really going to help with all that we have to work with for the fall.”

The StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Tool Kit (K-12) and the complete list of requirements and recommendations approved by the State Board of Education can be viewed by visiting

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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