Hickory school board members held initial discussions on firming up mask protocols and remote learning on Monday.
The state is requiring North Carolina school districts to submit a detailed plan for how the schools and teachers will navigate virtual and remote learning by Oct. 1. The state defines remote learning as a short-term situation and virtual learning as a long-term option, according to Hickory Public Schools Superintendent Bryan Taylor.
Taylor said he is open to creating separate plans for elementary, middle and high schools. However, Taylor said he did not expect to have separate plans for every school. He also suggested that teachers may need to start recording lessons to upload for student access in the event that students would need to move to remote or virtual learning.
Taylor said he would be meeting with principals on Sept. 14 to discuss what each school or grade level needs in regards to remote or virtual learning in order to come up with an effective plan.
“This new legislation makes it very clear that we can provide virtual instruction as we are this year,” Taylor said. “But as of June 30, the only way a district can continue to provide long-term virtual programming would be through a virtual school or a virtual academy which would have its own number and principal.”
This plan will help in the event that a school or multiple schools have to be shut down due to COVID-19. Several schools in the surrounding area have already had shutdowns due to COIVD-19 outbreaks. Iredell-Statesville Schools recently closed North Iredell High School, Central Elementary and East Iredell, West Iredell and Lakeshore middle schools.
At the next meeting, the board will also visit the option of having five days of remote learning available for weather-related emergencies. “School districts that do not have the weather waiver, which we do not, can now add back into their calendar up to five days of remote instruction,” Taylor said. “That can be used during severe weather, snow, etc. or other emergencies that have traditionally closed schools.”
COVID-19-related emergencies will not be included in the use of those five days.
The state is also requiring schools to create a policy that covers their vote on face coverings, whether the district is requiring face coverings or not. The North Carolina School Boards Association provided sample policies for both optional and required face-covering mandates that school boards can use as reference in the making of their own policy. School boards are also required to vote each month to keep face coverings mandatory or optional.
The next school board meeting is scheduled for Sept. 27 in the Northview Middle School auditorium. The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m.