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Governor announces Plan A option for pre-k through 5th grade

School systems throughout the state will have the option to bring elementary students in pre-k through fifth grade back into the classroom five days a week, starting Oct. 5. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced the change to school reopening restrictions during a press conference Thursday.

“I want to be clear,” Cooper said. “Plan A (full-time, in-person learning) may not be right at this time for many school districts and for every family. Opportunities for remote learning need to be available for families who choose it, and districts will have the flexibility to select a plan based on their unique situation.”

The Beaufort County Board of Education will consider what the announcement means for local students and schools during its meeting Monday.

“Our board of education is going to meet Monday at 4:30 to review some of my preliminary data and strategic planning as to when we believe we would be prepared, as a school system, to implement Plan A for pre-k through fifth grade,” said Beaufort County Schools Superintendent Matthew Cheeseman.

The governor’s announcement came just two days after the Beaufort County BOE voted 5-4 to resume in-person instruction for all BCS students under a Plan B schedule starting Oct. 15. Voting in favor of returning to in-person learning Oct. 15 were board members Mac Hodges, Carolyn Walker, T.W. Allen, Terry Draper and Butch Oliver. Voting against were E.C. Peed, Eltha Booth, Terry Williams and Michael Bilbro.

Under that plan, students will be broken into two groups, with Group A going to school Mondays and Wednesdays and Group B in class Thursdays and Fridays. All students will participate in remote learning on Wednesdays, while school system staff members perform deep cleaning at each school. Students will also participate in remote learning on the days they are not in the classroom, and parents also have the option to keep their children enrolled solely via remote learning, if they so choose.

Bringing pre-k through fifth grade students back under Plan A, while keeping sixth through 12th graders on Plan B, however, will present its own unique challenges and dynamics, according to Cheeseman, especially in a district where some schools serve pre-k through eighth grade.

“Under Plan A and Plan B, everyone needs to wear a mask and everyone still gets their temperature checked. However, under Plan A, social distancing is a recommendation. Under Plan B, social distancing is a requirement,” Cheeseman said. “So what that would mean is we would have four schools in our district where you had a dynamic where a portion of your students could be less than six feet apart, and a portion of your students cannot be less than six feet apart.”

In anticipation of the announcement, principals from throughout the district met Tuesday morning to strategize on what this would mean for schools. Each principal was directed to work with their respective school improvement teams to determine the potential details of what it could look like to move forward under Plan B, shift to Plan A or possibly create a hybrid model of the two for schools serving grades pre-k through eighth.

“Part of the dynamic is this — our teachers have been preparing for Plan B, where a small portion of kids would be face-to-face and a small portion of kids would be remote 60% of the time,” Cheeseman added. “Now they have to go back and strategize around the instructional delivery model of having 20-to-25 kids in a room and maybe five kids remote. … We’re going to bring some tentative ideas to the board on Monday, work very closely with our school improvement teams next week, and, ultimately, the board will weigh in on what date they think is best to go back.”

Additional details on reopening restrictions for schools under Plan A, Plan B and Plan C can be found via the Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit.