Harnett County Schools Announce Reopening Plan

Harnett County Schools (HCS) rolled out its reopening plan for both in-person instruction and online learning as the new classroom calendar year quickly approaches.

With the 2020-21 school year slated to begin Aug. 17, HCS on Wednesday evening released a parent information video detailing what campuses will look like on the inside and what conditions remote learning students face from home.

“No matter how you choose for your child to return to school this fall, in-person or remote, our commitment to quality instruction within a safe environment is paramount to Harnett County Schools,” HCS Superintendent Dr. Aaron Fleming said. “It’s hard to believe its been over four months since we heard the little pitter patter of school children’s feet in our hallways. While we are not completely there yet, we are hopeful that all of hallways will fill up again as we get back to normal from this destructive global pandemic.”

HCS’ plan broke down into two options with neither featuring staggered schedules or shuttered campuses.

Parents and students head into Harnett Primary School on the first day of school in 2016. The first day of school will be a bit different this year. Dunn Daily Record Photo

Option one opened all 29 schools to students for classroom learning with numerous safety precautions and social distancing guidelines. The option required students and staff to wear face coverings, closed cafeterias, eliminated most gatherings, implemented one-way traffic in hallways, moved breakfast and lunch into classrooms, introduced daily temperature checks, and drastically limited bus capacity. Schools installed multiple hand-sanitizer stations across campuses, added cup dispensers to water fountains and erected plastic shields in the front office in an effort to prevent any spread of the still active COVID-19 virus.

“All students in grades K-12 will have the opportunity to return to the building for classes,” said Brookie Ferguswon, HCS assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. “Students will be able to stay in their assigned schools. It will be traditional school as normal in a moderate socially distancing environment with additional health and safety measures in place.”

For parents and students uncomfortable about returning to school, Option 2 offered remote learning similar to the way last spring semester ended, only with stricter enforcement, and attendance requirements.

Due to a lack of interest, HCS decided to postpone its proposed virtual learning academy until after the COVID-19 pandemic subisides and instead focus its efforts on the remote learning initiative.

HCS announced that bus stops could be limited as the capacity per vehicle diminished greatly under social distancing guidelines.

As far a what a typical day will look like inside, Ferguson said that, under current enrollment projections, HCS campuses will proceed with the school year under standard hours of operation. Should the number of students wanting to return to school exceed a certain threshhold, HCS maintained the option of shifting to a pair of two-day cohorts during the week. The cohorts included Monday/Tuesday and Thursday/Friday with Wednesday being used for cleaning and sanitation across the district.

“Reduced class sizes or staggered days of attendfance could occur on the face-to-face learning plan,” Ferguson said. “Our plan is to return K-12 with reduced class sizes.We have worked to set up classrooms that practice social distancing guidelines. If our numbers of the ones who want to use the school building and come on campus stay within those guidelines, we will meet five days a week. That is our preliminary plan. If the numbers increase, we may go to the cohort plan.”

Click here to watch the full Harnett County Schools video.

-Dunn Daily Record