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Guilford County Schools task force looks at school reopening options

This school year will likely be unlike any we have ever seen. Face masks may be required, temperatures checked and at least some learning could be online.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — It might not be time for back to school shopping just yet but school districts across the state are certainly gearing up. Unlike past years this school year will most likely look a lot different from previous years. 

“Our biggest concern is the health and wellness of our students and our staff,” Guilford County School District Chief Academic Officer Whitney Oakley said.

With COVID-19 a major concern school districts including Guilford County are looking at different ways to educate kids while keeping them safe. The governor is expected to announce which plan he wants school districts to implement next week. The three options include in-person learning, remote learning, or a combination of both. 

“It is possible (any plan) and it is feasible, but it will not look like school has ever looked before,” Oakley said.

Guilford County Schools assembled a 160-member task force made up of staff, teachers, parents, bus drivers, custodians, and community members to try and figure out every possible scenario to best keep everyone safe. The focus right now seems to be on a Plan B scenario with the thought being it could easily pivot from to another option. 

“We can shift to a Plan C or A quickly if we plan for a Plan B, that’s what we’re thinking,” Guilford County School District Chief Executive Officer Angie Henry said.

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If the governor does decide on Plan B it could certainly look different depending on the school. While some schools in Guilford County are larger and newer some may not have the same capacity as others. Social distancing could be a problem and force some schools to go to a three-block plan rather than a two-block plan. Students would go to school every third day or week instead of every other day or week.

“The solution right now is we have to be flexible; we don’t know what the governor is going to say,” Oakley said.

There is also a chance high schools would be used for middle and elementary students to better social distance and ensure they get more in-person learning. 

“We know our older students in some cases are better equipped to learn remotely, but nothing is going to take the place of face to face instructions,” Oakley said. 

The district would look to get those high school students in front of teachers as much as possible.

If students and teachers do come back on campus in the fall, they will be met with new screening practices. All students and staff will be required to answer questions and have their temperature checked every day before getting on the bus or walking into the school.  

The additional safeguards come with a hefty price tag. Oakley said it could be upwards of $25 million. Guilford County Superintendent Dr. Sharon Contreras thought it could run closer to $100 million depending on the plan and what schools are required to do. There is state and federal money set aside but it might not be enough.

“We do not have adequate funding to meet the requirements set out in the DHHS guidance,” said Oakley.

Once the Governor decides which plan to put in place, the Guildford County School Board will review all options put forth by staff and the task force before implementing a course of action.

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