Clinton City Schools Reentry Blends In-Class, Remote Learning

Parents have option for solely remote learning

Clinton City Schools is preparing to get back to school on Aug. 17 and they are working out a plan that mixes remote learning with in-class learning sessions. Parents will have the option to have their children remain in remote learning only.

According to Assistant Superintendent Kelly Batts, the virtual Learning Program is designed for parents who are uncomfortable sending their students back to school. It is also designed for parents who want to engage with their assigned school. No matter what option parents elect for, they are locked into that choice until the governor decides to place all students in complete remote learning or allow them all to return to school.

“School is not and will not be normal. The creation of a perfect plan is impossible,” said Clinton City Schools Superintendent Dr. Wesley Johnson.

Students can’t choose remote learning, decide it’s not for them, and then choose a different plan going forward, school leaders said. They will have to remain in remote learning or face-to-face learning for the long haul.

Schedules can’t be set up until parents choose whether they want their kids to just be in remote learning or whether they can have some face-to-face learning.

“We could possibly take on students from other school systems who don’t already have virtual options,” Batts commented.

Some parents might want to opt for some element of face-to-face instruction.

Students from kindergarten to second grade will have face-to-face instruction, five days a week. This plan is known as the family model and it places a small family unit in one classroom all day. This model can only happen if 30% of students choose the virtual-only option.

Teachers and students will abide by the most current North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) guidelines for the wearing of face coverings while inside classrooms. Students are required to wear masks outside the family unit while on the bus, entering the school, leaving the school and traveling to other areas of the school.

For third grade to fifth grade, the students will still operate under the family model but on an A/B day schedule. On an A cohort, half the students, will come to school on Mondays and Tuesdays while the other half, the B cohort, will come to schools on Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays will be remote learning for all the students.

The cohort groups will be divided alphabetically. Siblings from third to 12th grade will operate under the same A/B schedule.

For sixth through eighth-grade students, students will be grouped into pods. A pod will have an English teacher, Language Arts teacher, Science and Social Studies teacher.

For ninth through 12th grade, students will run their normal schedule each day they are on campus, with social distancing protocols will be in place.

“Each school will develop specific guidelines to share with families regarding the expected number and type of assignments and grades per nine weeks,” Batts stated.

This virtual option would be free for CCS students but outside students would have to pay their normal tuition prices to attend the program. Batts noted that the Virtual Learning Program is combined content from teacher created materials, courseware purchased from a high quality content provider, and newly adopted K-8 reading program.

Students can access the program through a system-issued Chromebook. They will have to access their material through the internet, hotspots can be provided, and Google Classroom would be the learning management system.

Batts stressed to parents that the new virtual program will look very different than it has in the past, especially when compared to the spring semester.

There will need to be a commitment from both parents and the students, who will have to constantly communicate with teachers on at least a weekly basis, school officials said. Plus, there will be some form of daily attendance taken.

Parents who choose this option will have to keep this commitment until the governor moves schools into a plan A structure, where all students must come face-to-face with some social distancing in play. Parents have until July 29 to make this commitment.

According to CCS Superintendent Dr. Wesley Johnson, this will give CCS plenty of time to develop schedules for everyone who wants some form of face-to-face element in their schedule.

All students will have their own Chromebook for their school work.

NC Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) is constantly updating their information as far as guidelines for school officials, Johnson noted. According to Johnson, 1,639 parents responded to a survey CCS put out earlier in the month.

Of the parents who responded, about half feel it would be best for their children to learn at a remote capacity, the superintendent explained. Around 22% of the parents feel it would be best to send students back to school for the normal five days a week schedule. A total of 14.6% of the parents like an A-B schedule, while 9% favor a weekly rotation. About 5.6% like the plan that sends students from kindergarten to eighth grade back to school with social distancing while ninth through 12th grade would stay in strictly remote learning. There was a total of 2.9% of the parents that entered in their own idea and 51.2% chose some variant of face-to-face instruction.

There were 199 teacher respondents to the survey CCS put in place earlier this month.

About 31.2% of the teacher respondents prefer an A day/B day type of schedule and 25.6% want all remote learning. A total of 17.1% of teachers want a normal schedule while 16.6% want a weekly rotation. Around 5% want to send students from kindergarten to eighth grade back to school with social distancing and ninth through 12th grade to stay in strictly remote learning. About 3.9% entered in their own idea and 69.9% of the teachers want some type of face-to-face element in the plan.

“There are varying opinions out there,” Johnson stated. “You need to have multiple options for your parents because there are different opinions on what works best for each child and it doesn’t even have to be the same for each family, each child of the family. There’s different options that are needed.”

Johnson noted that the death rate for the coronavirus has reduced substantially, with March, April and May having the highest death rates.

“It’s likely that COVID-19 will remain a threat, therefore safety and sanitation are priority,” the superintendent stated.

Johnson also noted that children have not been found to contribute substantially to the spread of the virus.

“School is not and will not be normal,” Johnson clarified. “The creation of a perfect plan is impossible.”

Johnson noted that the needs for students and teachers will differ and that each option will impact everyone differently.

Child nutrition must continue no matter what phase the schools are in. Some normal school activities will be modified or canceled all together, however Johnson said he is unsure whether school athletics will resume as normal or not.

The superintendent noted that, no matter what, the virtual experience for students will have to be modified and improved going forward. He noted that all parents will have the option to opt into a virtual experience.

-Story courtesy The Sampson Independent