The Cumberland County Schools Board of Education unanimously approved starting the 2020-2021 school year completely remotely – the Plan C option – for at least six weeks in their specially-called board meeting Tuesday morning. Schools are scheduled to start August 17.
With coronavirus (COVID-19) cases not trending downward, last week Superintendent Dr. Marvin Connelly recommended schools reopen remotely for at least six weeks (until at least September 25), before reviewing the progress at that time. Assuming cases are trending in the right direction, schools would potentially go to the Plan B hybrid in-person and remote approach. If not, the board would review the progress every three weeks to determine when Cumberland County Schools would transition.
Several key points about the start of the year remotely for Cumberland County Schools:
- Specifics of the schedule are still being ironed out;
- Remote learning will likely be about 3 hours per day for students, which will include some times directly in front of teachers;
- EC students will still get their IEPs;
- Devices and wireless hot spots will be provided to all students as needed;
- Food service will likely be provided at all schools, unless staffing prevents it;
- Teachers will possibly be allowed to teach from the classroom if they prefer it.
Dr. Connelly brought up the concerns of not being able to adequately staff schools with the in-person models. Other board members brought up the need for additional time to make school environments safe and to get proper equipment in place.
“The safety of our students and staff is our top priority,” Dr. Connelly said. “Over the last few days, we have received several health and safety concerns about the opening of schools. As promised, we have continued to monitor the situation and will use data to make informed decisions for our students and staff, in consultation with local health officials.”
Cumberland County Schools sent out a survey to parents to get feedback on which plan was preferred and most parents (over 56 percent) wanted students in either the full-time remote school option, or the newly-created Cumberland Virtual Academy school model. As of Tuesday morning, 43.7 percent of parents had picked the fully remote model, while 12.7 percent had picked the Cumberland Virtual Academy option. About 43 percent chose the blended in-person and remote model.
Board member Greg West recommended that teachers be allowed to teach remotely from their classrooms, given that students will not be in the building. Medical exceptions would be permitted under that plan.
The decision comes as Gov. Roy Cooper issued guidance recently for how schools could choose to reopen under the increasing numbers of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases. State guidance said that schools should plan for reopening under a Plan B hybrid in-person and remote learning option, but that if local districts felt it necessary, using Plan C for remote learning was allowable. The school year is set to begin on August 17.