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Newton-Conover school board approves re-entry plan for 2020 school year

Newton-Conover school board approves re-entry plan for 2020 school year

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A plan to allow students to return to the classroom was approved during the Newton-Conover City Schools regular meeting on Monday but not without some disagreement.

The plan includes details on how students and teachers will be instructed to maintain social distancing and how transportation will be accomplished.

Students will attend school two days a week and what days they attend will be decided based on bus zones. Sylvia White, director of personnel for the district, said this is so students from the same households can attend school on the same days.

All students will participate in remote learning on Fridays.

John Robinson, public information officer for the school district, said the system continues to receive revisions from the state and district plans will be updated.

The current plan states that administration will designate staff members to check the temperature of everyone as they arrive to school each day. Signs will also be placed throughout the schools including directional signs and marks on the floor reminding students and staff to stay six feet apart.

Visitors will also be limited. Volunteers will not be allowed unless they are essential to the educational process.

Many students will have lunch in classrooms as it would be difficult to manage so many students in the cafeteria while following social distancing guidelines, Superintendent Aron Gabriel said during the meeting.

Any activities that involve large groups of people will be discontinued. This includes assemblies and in-person field trips.

The plan also includes guidelines for sanitation. Classrooms will be sanitized multiple times including between classes.

Before the school board voted to approve the plan, board member Jim Stockner said he disagreed with approving a plan until all questions have been answered.

Stockner shared a list of questions asked by an anonymous teacher. Many of the questions revolved around how teachers would protect themselves and students. Stockner said the teacher also wanted to know how the district will help teachers if they come in contact with the virus.

“As far as I’m concerned as a board member, if we do this, put these kids back into schools, we can’t guarantee their safety from (COVID-19),” he said. “Until I can answer all of these questions that these teachers thoughtfully put together, I can’t vote to do this."

Stockner said he might like to see the district continue virtual learning for a while until they can work out more plans and see where the virus numbers will be a little more in the future.

“It’s almost asking them to go into a war zone, their kids, too,” Stockner said. “They'd be better off in a classroom, learning-wise, I know that. But health-wise, I don’t know if that’s true.”

Board member Mark Pennell said he agreed with Stockner. “It’s only a matter of time before one of our teachers will get (the virus),” he said.

“I hope we will all pledge to go the funerals,” Stockner said. “Heaven forbid there are any.”

Board member Phil Heath gave another perspective, “My kids missed half of a school year basically already,” he said. “And now you’re proposing at least another half. How far are we putting these kids behind?”

“How many are you going to kill in the process, Phil?” Stockner replied.

“I’m not killing anybody,” Heath said. “We put kids on the bus every day and we have bus accidents that kill kids. Should we stop doing that?”

Pennell said he has a daughter entering her senior year in high school and doesn’t want her to miss out on the senior year moments, “… but I’m not going to put her in a situation that may end with her senior year.”

Heath reminded his fellow board members that they will give students and parents the option to continue remote learning full-time. “The state has put nobody in a good position,” Heath added.

Robbie Gonzales, Tim Hayes, Jeanne Jarrett and Heath voted to approve the district’s plan to reopen school. Stockner and Pennell voted no.

Hickory Public Schools also announced their re-entry plans and will continue remote learning until September.

Hickory students will continue remote learning for the first four weeks of school starting on Aug. 17, according to an announcement on the school district’s website.

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