By Zach Solon | March 4, 2021 at 2:16 PM EST – Updated March 4 at 7:48 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – As parents prepare to send their students back to school full-time on Monday, March 8, New Hanover County elementary schools are gearing up to welcome more students into the classroom.
At Parsley Elementary School in Wilmington, teachers and administrators have welcomed roughly half of the student body each day under Plan B. On Monday, about 91 percent of the school’s students will be present, with the rest learning from home.
“I cannot wait to have everybody back in my classroom,” said second grade teacher Lindsay Joyce. “The kids are excited, the A group has not been with the B group so they are excited; it will be like the first day again.”
The school will have a different look, however, with several protocols and procedures in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“Going into the classrooms and talking to teachers,” said New Hanover County Schools Assistant Superintendent Eddie Anderson, “It’s always amazing to me how creative they are and the creative ideas that they come up with.”
In Joyce’s classroom, each desk sits inside a square of blue tape on the floor, serving as a reminder to her young students to stay inside their own space.
Elsewhere in the school, students are learning to play the piano through software on their computers and taking advantage of the recent nice weather to have physical education classes outside. When it rains, those classes are moved inside to the school’s large gymnasium.
“I think everyone is ready to come back to school and have more face-to-face time with their fellow students,” said Anderson.
The New Hanover County Board of Education voted last month to move Pre-K through 5th grade students to Plan A for the first time this school year. The board expects the plan to last through the final nine weeks of the school year.
Under Plan A, parents can choose to send their students into the classroom full-time or keep them home for remote learning. According to the NHCS website, schools will be contacting parents to verify which option they are choosing for their child.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services requires schools following Plan A to require students and staff to wear face coverings, be screened for COVID-19 symptoms, and follow other measures to prevent the spread of the virus. The plan does not, however, require those in school to maintain six feet of physical distance between each other.
Anderson says the district has set a goal of keeping at least three feet of distance between students in hallways and classrooms. Signs are posted on the walls and on the floor to remind students of this, and drinking fountains are to be used only for filling reusable water bottles.
“The work that everyone did under Plan B showed that we can do this successfully,” said Anderson.
Parsley Elementary School is cleaned regularly. Custodians wipe down classrooms after students leave the room, and hand sanitizer stations are scattered throughout the hallways.
“We have provided really enhanced training for our custodial staff and our building managers,” said Anderson. “We’ve also provided them with additional resources, products, [and] equipment. We’re making sure that anything we use is on the EPA’s approved list of products for COVID.”
Temperatures are checked as students enter the building each morning, and students who feel sick during the day are sent to “The Cove,” an isolation space where the school nurse can monitor the student and call their parents to pick them up if needed.
Parsley Elementary School teachers have had to communicate with students both virtually and in-person for most of this year. On Monday, they will finally be able to have full classrooms again.
“I hope we have a dynamite fourth quarter,” said Joyce.
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