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Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools moving to in-person learning for middle and high school students

All students who want to learn in-person will have the option to return to in-person learning four days a week, W-S/FCS said.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education approved a recommendation to move middle schools and high schools to Plan A beginning Monday, April 19.

All students who want to learn in-person will have the option to return to in-person learning four days a week. The district said Wednesdays will remain a remote learning day.

“Now that the state has given us the ability to operate in Plan A following new legislation, after carefully looking at the data and working to understand the latest CDC guidelines I feel we are ready to give our students the option to be back in school as much as possible. In-person learning is what’s best for most students. If they want to learn in-person four days a week, now they can. However, if parents still have concerns and want their students to continue learning remotely, they can continue with the remote learning option for the remainder of this year,” Tricia McManus, WS/FCS Superintendent said.

The district said families will need to decide if students are going all in-person or all remote.

Parents, teachers and students came to Thursday's special called meeting in spite of the rain.

"I've been begging to go to school since the day I learned we will be remote learning and I was not happy to have to learn from a computer and not go to face to face learning with my teachers," one middle school student said.

Many parents called to go back to the classroom full time.

"I hope you choose to do that, to fully open our schools because I think there's going to be some really terrible consequences if we don't get kids back in the classroom," one woman said.

Others said we need to be careful.

"The presence of more students in the school with less social distancing will lead to more cases," Allen Daniel said.

Middle and high schoolers are already set to go back two days a week on April 12.

Superintendent Dr. Tricia McManus recommended they return four days a week, starting the following Monday on April 19.

Wednesdays will be a flexible day. Younger students who were already learning in person four days a week will continue to do so.

McManus said bringing back students who choose to return has been the goal all year. She applauded two students who spoke during the meeting.

"I can't stand up here as a public educator and as a leader of this system and ignore voices of students that say, 'I just want to be back four days a week'," McManus said.

Board members voted 8-1 to follow the superintendent's recommendation.

Plan A means all public health requirements must continue to be followed, except the six feet physical distancing Requirements mentioned in Plan B. Under Plan A schools will still be required to:

  • Provide social distancing floor/seating markings in waiting and reception areas.
  • Mark 6 feet of spacing to remind students to stay 6 feet apart in lines and at other times when they may congregate.
  • Mark 6 feet of spacing to remind teachers and staff to stay 6 feet apart at times when they may congregate, such as during staff meetings, planning periods, lunch, recess, in teacher lounges, and break rooms.
  • Provide marks on the floors of restrooms and locker rooms to indicate proper social distancing.
  • Limit nonessential visitors and activities involving external groups or organizations.
  • Have teachers and staff monitor arrival and dismissal to discourage congregating and ensure students go straight from a vehicle to their classrooms and vice-versa.
  • Discontinue the use of any self-service food or beverage distribution in the cafeteria (e.g., meals and/or snacks served at school should be individually packaged and served directly to students; milk or juice may be available separately and should also be served directly to students). As always, ensure the safety of children with food allergies.
  • Mark 6 feet of spacing to remind school nutrition staff to stay 6 feet apart throughout food distribution.
  • Choose physical education activities that limit the use of shared equipment, and any close contact between students during those activities is limited and brief.
  • Discontinue in-person activities that involve bringing together large groups of people or activities that do not allow for social distancing (assemblies, performances, field trips, etc.)

Updated guidance released in the updated North Carolina StrongSchools Toolkit this week also recommends that schools in Plan A:

  • (Plan A Only) Maintain at least 3 feet of distance between students in classrooms to the greatest extent possible (e.g., desks spaced 3 feet apart).
  • (Plan A Only) Maintain at least 6 feet of distance between adult staff and students to the greatest extent possible (e.g., teacher delivers classroom instruction from at least 6 feet away).
  • (Plan A Only) Maintain at least 6 feet of spacing between people when masks cannot be worn (e.g., when eating).
  • Keep students and teachers in small cohort groups that stay together as much as possible during the day, and from day to day. Limit mixing between cohort groups as much as possible (e.g., during recess, lunch in the cafeteria, arrival and dismissal).
  • Minimize opportunities for sustained exposure (15 minutes or more, cumulative over a 24 hour period, within 6 feet distance) between students, teachers, staff, and visitors in areas they may congregate, such as in waiting and reception areas, when in line, during transitions, or while waiting for transportation.
  • Minimize opportunities for sustained exposure (15 minutes or more, cumulative over a 24 hour period, within 6 feet distance) between teachers and staff during staff meetings, planning periods, lunch, recess, in teacher lounges, and break rooms and other areas teachers and staff may congregate.
  • Provide frequent reminders for students, teachers, and staff to stay at least 6 feet apart from one another when feasible.
  • Arrange furniture, such as desks or seating in classrooms, break rooms, and reception areas, so that students, teachers, staff, and visitors are separated from one another by at least 6 feet when feasible. If it is not possible to arrange seating 6 feet apart, consider having all students, teachers, staff and visitors sit facing the same direction (i.e., all sitting on the same side of a table), or using barriers between people.
  • Designate hallways as one-way, posting directional reminders on the walls and/or floor.
  • Designate entrance and exit doors for classrooms and restrooms to reduce the chance that people meet face to face. · 
  • Follow the recommendations outlined in Interim Guidance for Administrators and Participants of Youth, College & Amateur Sports Programs 
  • Follow the recommendations outlined in Requirements and Recommendations for Recess, Specials, and General Activities

Guilford County Schools also met in a work session Thursday. The district still has not announced whether it will move to Plan A.