By Anna Phillips | September 17, 2020 at 5:55 PM EDT – Updated September 17 at 8:49 PM
NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) – 2020 is the year of adjusting on the fly for parents, students and teachers.
New Hanover County Schools were preparing to welcome students back for in-person learning under Plan B with a rotation hybrid of in-person and online learning with traditional schools scheduled to begin October 6.
Asst. Superintendent Eddie Anderson says certain students with identified special needs and ESL learners will have the opportunity to attend full time.
Governor Roy Cooper announced Thursday afternoon that elementary schools will be permitted to re-open with fully in-person instruction if local school boards deem it appropriate.
However students return to eventual in-person learning, teachers want families to be prepared for it to look very different than school did when in-person learning was abandoned in March.
Everyone who enters the building will be screened for COVID-19 at the door and they will have their temperature taken.
“There will be multiple points where that will occur,” Anderson said. “Bus riders will be screened separate from car riders. Car riders will be screened typically at the car so if they do present symptoms the parents can take them home. Walkers and bicycle riders will be screened at various points throughout the building.”
At Bradley Creek Elementary School, signage is posted throughout the school encouraging the three W’s and social distancing.
Water fountains are taped off and students will only be allowed to use filling stations with their own reusable water bottles.
Communal spaces like cubbies and hallway hooks will largely not be used and students will keep all of their belongings at their own desk.
School meals will look different, at least for the first few weeks. Elementary schools will provide a grab-and-go breakfast to be eaten in each child’s classroom. Lunch will be delivered to the classroom. Middle school students will go through the cafeteria line but will return to their classroom to eat.
After the first three weeks, Anderson says schools will be able to evaluate how they wish to handle meals going forward.
A federal food waiver is providing school meals to all New Hanover County students for free through the end of 2020.
Bus routes will also be affected.
Students will be required to wear a face mask to ride the bus which will be at a reduced capacity with one child per seat. Routes will be shorter and some neighborhoods will be limited to one drop-off point for all children in that neighborhood and some buses will run second daily routes.
” We’re all stressed,” said second grade teacher Christine Sawyer. “I think that parents are stressed and teachers are stressed but I think that if we’re able to work together and give each other grace we can make it work. It’s just a matter of turning around and looking at it at another angle and doing it a different way.”
Sawyer hopes families will continue teaching their children to practice the three w’s at home and wearing their face masks.
“We know [students] probably have not been wearing a mask all day. So, they will have mask breaks during the day, especially when we have lunch and snack but they will need to wear them and wear them properly. So we will make sure that we help them with that here but the more that they are used to practicing those three w’s at home the easier the transition will be for them,” Sawyer said.
Anderson says the district is ready for Plan B.
“Having that opportunity to start school under plan c, I believe, gave us time,” he said. It gave “schools time, parents and students time to prepare and so we’re ready.”
Governor Roy Cooper’s announcement Thursday allows public school districts to open elementary schools under Plan A beginning October 5, if they so choose.
As of Thursday evening, New Hanover County Schools continues to operate under the premise of schools re-opening under Plan B on October 6, but the district will hold virtual town hall meetings to gauge interested in re-opening elementary schools under Plan A.
Town halls are planned for:
Tuesday, September 22 (Pre-K and elementary schools)
Wednesday, September 23 (LatinX families in partnership with UNCW Latino Alliance)
Thursday, September 24 (Middle and high schools)
The town halls are from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. and can be streamed online in a variety of ways.
Copyright 2020 WECT. All rights reserved.