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Why are families turning to private schools during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Many local private schools are reopening for in person learning. Some public school families want that option, something public schools can't offer due to COVID-19.

GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — As families navigate the upcoming school year and the uncertainty that comes with the coronavirus pandemic, many families are turning to private schools to educate their kids. 

That's because private schools aren't required to follow Gov. Roy Cooper's guidelines for reopening, so many private institutions in the Charlotte area are opening for in-person instruction. 

Multiple schools in the area told WCNC Charlotte they've seen an increase in calls from interested families. 

“When CMS and Gaston County and York County announced their plans, it was just overwhelming,” said Davidson Hobson, Associate Head of School for Gaston Day School.

When Gaston Day School opens next month, it won’t look the same as years past, but all students will be there. In-person learning is an option many parents in the area are searching for.

“One large segment wants to make sure their students have the consistency of education, and the other is just frantically looking for child care. Our response is to caution them from moving them to an independent school landscape for one year just to solve a child care need,” said Hobson.

Gaston Day School has limited space this year because administration decided not to split the kids into smaller groups to come in person on a rotating schedule. All 500 kids will be back at once and will be spreading out into every inch of the building. The cafeteria and theater are now classrooms.

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Before walking inside, students will be met with a thermal scanner. Inside there are reminders to stay six feet apart and masks are required.

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“This place used to operate like a college campus with students moving all over working on cross curricular projects with other grades and one of the sacrifices we've had to make is to develop cohort groups where students are isolated so that if we do have someone test positive, we don't have to address the entire school, we're just looking at segmented populations,” said Hobson.

Just like public schools in North Carolina are required to, Gaston Day is offering a remote learning option for families who feel that is the best option. If coronavirus trends change, the entire school can switch to that model overnight.