The Roanoke Rapids Graded School District Board of Trustees adopted a plan Tuesday night that maximizes on-campus learning for the most vulnerable students in a safe way.
The plan was passed on a 6-3 measure with Tammy Colston, Henry Ford and Ed Liverman casting the dissenting votes.
Under the plan, pre-kindergarten through grade 8 students will be able to attend every day face-to-face. Students in grades 9 through 12 — the high school and early college — will have virtual learning every day.
Parents of students in grades Pre-K through eighth will have the option to let their children do complete virtual learning by signing the form provided in this link.
School system spokesperson Les Atkins said this morning the district is still awaiting word from the North Carolina High School Athletic Association on how to proceed with sports.
This hybrid plan follows Governor Roy Cooper’s latest directive announced Tuesday afternoon and prioritizes the health of students, staff, and community while responding to the scheduling needs of parents and staff by spreading out younger students across all district campuses in much smaller groups.
The district is also committed to high-quality, robust virtual learning for high school and early college students as well as any elementary and middle school students who choose a virtual option.
“The safety of our students and staff is important,” said Superintendent Dain Butler. “We know from the CDC guidelines that keeping fewer people more separated and increasing handwashing and sanitation of the physical environment reduces the likelihood that someone will get sick. We also know continued school closures not only pose increased learning loss, but also threaten the social, emotional well-being of students, increase food insecurity, and create equity gaps.”
Butler said, “While there may not be one perfect solution, we now have the opportunity to shape a proactive, intentional learning and teaching plan to move our students forward academically and socially-emotionally and provide our families with choices that work for their children.”
The plan was largely developed in response to a parent, staff, and student survey that was sent out in late June.
Of survey respondents, 61 percent of parents, 67 percent of staff members, and 47 percent of students said they preferred 100 percent face-to-face instruction.
Many parents indicated their concerns about available, flexible, and affordable child care options that would be able to facilitate remote learning on their students’ virtual learning days. Likewise, staff indicated concerns about simultaneously trying to engage with half of their class face-to-face, while also engaging with half of their class virtually, as well as simultaneously managing their own children’s schedule on virtual learning days. With this plan, virtual learning is an option for all families.
“Based on our available facility space and our number of buses, our decision was somewhat made for us because we do not have the space to socially distance 100 percent of our total student enrollment and staff in our district classrooms at one time,” said Julie Thompson, assistant superintendent of instructional services. “While we agree all students from Pre-K through twelfth grade benefit from in-person instruction, providing remote instruction for high school students frees up our high school spaces to be repurposed for middle school grades and allows us to follow the latest state guidelines released on Tuesday.”
Said Thompson: “As Governor Cooper explained in his press conference, research also suggests that elementary age children are less likely to be infected with COVID-19 which helped further guide our decision making toward having only younger students in our buildings.”
The school system in its reopening plan offered the following commitments:
Keeping students and staff as physically safe and emotionally healthy as possible
Ensuring access, equity, and excellence for all students
Communicating with stakeholders including staff, families, and community partners
Ensuring flexibility to meet the social, emotional, and academic needs of all students
Supporting readiness and progress in teaching and learning whether in person or virtual
“RRGSD’s plan for reopening is a working document,” Butler said. “It’s important to note the local, state, and national guidance and requirements we’ve been given have been rapidly changing, so please understand these plans must be flexible and allow for changes as new health data is released to protect our students and staff. We will follow all federal, state, and local directives.”
Highlights of Return to Learn Plan
Pre-K through Grade 8 will begin school August 17 face-to-face unless their family chooses the virtual-only option.
To the extent possible, all classes will be 12 students or fewer; there will be a maximum of 15 students per group.
All classrooms will be marked to ensure students are socially distanced per North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services requirements.
To accommodate the increased number of student groups, some grade levels will have to move to campuses other than their home base school.
Eligibility for bus transportation will be determined based on home location to the school campus where students will attend classes.
Pre-kindergarten students will attend Clara Hearne Pre-K Center.
Kindergarten through grade 4 students will attend either Belmont or Manning Elementary using current district guidelines from 8:10 a.m.- 3:10 p.m.
Traditional Manning students will go to Manning and traditional Belmont students will go to Belmont.
Grades 5 through 6 students will attend classes at Chaloner Middle School from 8:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Grades 7 through 8 students will attend classes at Roanoke Rapids High School from 7:25 a.m. - 2:25 p.m.
Students in self-contained EC Life Skills will be housed in their home base school — grades K-5 will be at Belmont or Manning and grades 6 through 8 at Chaloner.
Per NCDHHS requirements, while at school, students and staff will wear face coverings when they are within 6-feet of another person unless an exception applies, is eating, or engaged in strenuous physical activity and able to maintain 6-feet distance from other people.
Face coverings must be worn by all students, teachers, staff, and adult visitors on buses or other school transportation vehicles, inside school buildings, and anywhere on school grounds, including outside.
Per NCDHHS recommendations, students will not be able to receive food dropped off on face-to-face days, and visitors — including parents — will not be allowed to enter the buildings except for prearranged visits coordinated by school administrators.
Grades 9 through 12 Roanoke Rapids High School students will begin August 17 virtual only.
Students in self-contained EC Life Skills and OCS will attend face-to-face at RRHS every day.
Grades 9 through 12 Roanoke Rapids Early College students will begin August 10 virtual only.
Both Pre-K and Place to Play will have limited enrollment, but the system will still offer its typical Place to Play before and after school child care service for students at Belmont and Manning.
School safety and cleaning protocol
The system is planning a simple, yet strict wellness screening for all staff, students, and essential visitors that meet NCDHHS guidance along with social distancing requirements on campuses.
Under the supervision of school nurses, trained school personnel will conduct regular screenings for symptoms that include temperature checks prior to loading buses or entering school buildings along with ongoing monitoring throughout the day.
Anyone who feels ill or is showing symptoms of illness, such as an elevated body temperature of 100.4 or higher, dry cough, shortness of breath, new loss of taste or smell, must stay home. No one with symptoms or a temperature of 100.4 or higher will be allowed into the building. COVID-19 related absences would not be held against a student.
Additionally, there will be safety measures inside buildings to further strengthen health conditions.
Current state guidance from NCDHHS requires all students and staff to wear masks or facial coverings while on school campuses unless an exception applies.
Due to NCDHHS requirements, RRGSD must limit visitors to campuses.
This will prevent the tradition of parents or guardians bringing outside food to school during the day and eating lunch with their child for the time being.
Staff and students will be given frequent handwashing breaks and hand sanitizer will be in place in all buildings.
Facilities teams have been and will continue to regularly disinfect buildings and busses to ensure the highest level of cleanliness possible.
RRGSD has established a schedule to perform ongoing and routine environmental cleaning and disinfection of high-touch areas — door handles, stair rails, faucet handles, toilet handles, playground equipment, light switches, desks, tables, chairs and others — with an EPA-approved disinfectant.
Virtual learning will look much different than it did in the spring.
The school system has had more time to evaluate and improve the overall experience for students and teachers.
The system has invested more than $600,000 this summer to issue every K-12 student a Chromebook they can use both at school and at home to complete assignments and reduce the potential spread of sickness through paper distribution.
They can also be used for remote learning should the system be forced to adapt to a virtual learning model as a result of future state orders.
The school system is also working with the 1Million Project to supply additional hotspots to those who do not have reliable, high-speed internet at home.
Remote learning for students will include daily attendance and schedules.
To ensure a robust remote instruction experience, RRGSD has partnered with Apex Learning to provide both courses and tutorials for all students.
Teachers will be able to assign either or both in addition to the materials they create.
Apex Learning also includes support for End of Course tests and the ACTs and SATs.
Remote learning for students will include daily attendance and schedules.
Teachers will provide feedback on student work and issue grades based on mastery, not just completion.
Teachers and staff will be accessible to students in a variety of ways throughout the school day. Students with special needs who are not in self-contained classes will still receive specially designed instruction and other related services as dictated in their Individualized Education Program.
Virtual learning will mirror traditional instruction as much as possible.
Students will have the option to watch recorded videos produced by their teacher and complete assignments daily.
There is no expectation for a student to sit at a computer for more than 5 hours a day.
They will also have live check-ins with their teacher on a regular basis.
Families who want to opt for 100 percent virtual learning for their elementary or middle school students may do so by completing this form and submitting it to their home-based school.
This form will need to be printed, signed, and turned in to the child’s school administrator or Central Services office.
Pre-K through grade 8 students will eat breakfast and lunch in their classrooms every day.
The school nutrition staff will cook hot meals and cold meals and pre-packaged for safe and efficient distribution to students.
RRGSD has a plan to be able to provide meals for high school students every day.
Kindergarten through grade 8 families will need to complete the Family Intent Survey as soon as they can to indicate their preference for their children’s learning environment and transportation for the 2020-21 school year.
As soon as possible, the system will update parents and stakeholders with additional details about the following:
Options for internet access
Teaching and learning information
High school and middle school sports
Comprehensive FAQ on the system’s website to answer questions that may arise following this release
“These decisions were not made lightly, however, we believe all of them were made with the best interests of students, families, and staff members in mind,” Butler said. “Moving forward, we also have plans in place should there be a positive case on any of our campuses.This plan includes consultation with the Halifax Health Department to determine whether closure of a classroom or entire building would be required. These situations would be determined on a case-by-case basis.”
Said the superintendent, “Please know we will remain mindful of your concerns as we continue to navigate through this unprecedented time. We are facing a global pandemic never before seen in any of our lifetimes. The impact on our school family has been significant. We realize this stress and recognize the impact our decisions have on you and your family.”