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'We need your help:' GCS has no plans to return to remote learning, urges vaccinations

School leaders say they plan to do everything to keep students in classrooms and COVID-19 out.

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Guilford County school leaders said they have no plans to return to remote learning following the two-week holiday break. During a briefing on Tuesday, school officials said they'll do everything they can to keep kids in classrooms and COVID-19 out.

To keep it that way, they're asking for the public to do its part. 

"We need your help," said GCS Superintendent Dr. Sharon Contreras. "We need to mask, we need to get vaccinated, and get our booster if eligible or able." 

Watch the full briefing on our YouTube page.

Dr. Contreras was joined by other school district leaders as well as Guilford County Public Health Director Iulia Vann, who said it is safe for students to have in-person learning. 

Dr. Vann said despite rising COVID-19 numbers in the county, in-school transmission is lower than community transmission due to the health protocols in place at schools. 

"I strongly urge everyone in the community to continue to wear a face-covering when in public, indoors, regardless of vaccination status," Dr. Vann said. 

However, GCS officials said they are prepared to return to remote learning if needed. Dr. Contreras said the situation would have to be "dire" and at the recommendation of the county health department in order for that to happen. 

“School closures had a devastating impact on our students’ learning and on their emotional health and wellbeing," she said. "That's why we're committed to in-person learning and why we will do everything in our power to keep our students healthy and safe in our buildings."

For now, remote learning will be determined on a school-by-school basis. 

GCS said its mask mandate will remain in place. The district is also offering drive-thru testing at some school sites this week. 

"While we are doing everything we can to keep our students in school, learning in person, and have contingency plans in place to augment possible staffing shortages, it is possible some classrooms or schools may have to close simply because we do not have enough people to provide appropriate instruction and supervision," Dr. Contreras said. 

She also asked parents to drive their students to school if possible due to a bus driver shortage. 

"It is also possible we will not have enough bus drivers to provide transportation for all students to and from school. If you can bring your child to school, please do so," she said. 

POST-HOLIDAY COVID SPREAD IN GUILFORD COUNTY

On Tuesday, students and staff returned to the classroom after nearly two weeks of winter vacation. The return to school comes as Guilford County reports skyrocketing positive cases. Right now, the 14-day percent positive rate is 18.9%. That means about one in five COVID-19 tests is coming back positive. 

The state is seeing a similar trend. North Carolina's daily percent positive on Monday was 27% - a record high. The state's percent positive has remained in the double digits for more than two weeks. 

KIDS AND VACCINES 

More parents appear to be getting their children vaccinated against COVID-19. The FDA on Monday endorsed COVID-19 booster shots for children as young as 12. 

Health experts say kids should now get a booster shot five months after their second dose, rather than wait six months. 

The FDA also recommends an additional dose of the Pfizer booster for some children as young as five with compromised immune systems. The CDC still needs to sign off on that plan, which could happen sometime this week. 

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