By Catharin Shepard •
Hoke County High School students on the “plan b” hybrid class schedule returned to face-to-face classes Monday and Tuesday after 11 days of online-only learning.
School officials paused in-person classes at the high school September 16 after two staff members tested positive for COVID-19. It was the first time since local schools reopened on the optional hybrid schedule that a school in Hoke County reported any cases of COVID-19 among staff members.
The temporary move to online-only affected just the high school. All the other schools continued to operate on the hybrid schedule.
The two staff members were teachers who work in the same department, according to local health officials. One of the teachers was not around students at all, because they were under a 14-day quarantine period after being exposed to a known positive case of COVID-19 outside of the school. Health Department officials notified people who may have been in contact with the second teacher about getting tested for COVID-19.
The school system, officials say, is working closely with the Hoke County Health Department to test any students or teachers who show symptoms or may have been exposed. Safety precautions including social distancing, required masks, frequent cleaning and daily temperature checks are still in effect at all schools.
So far, there haven’t been any clusters of cases among students or staff, Hoke County Health Department Director Helene Edwards said. The state defines a cluster as five or more laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 at a school. Parents are doing their part by keeping sick children at home, Edwards said.
“The communication is working very well on the side with the parents. If the children have been exposed, they’re keeping them home,” she said.
Hoke Schools are operating on a hybrid two-day-a-week schedule of in-person classes with online-only classes the other three days. About half of all the school system’s 9,000 enrolled students and their families opted for online-only learning for the fall semester. Students who are attending in-person classes go on a Monday and Wednesday, or Tuesday and Thursday schedule.
Gov. Roy Cooper announced earlier this month that the state’s public schools could choose to reopen elementary schools on a full-time schedule starting in October. State officials cited data that younger children are reportedly less likely to spread the virus or experience serious symptoms, as a reason for the change.
Hoke County Schools officials reported they would not make an immediate decision about reopening elementary schools, and planned to survey elementary school parents first. Resuming full in-person instruction for elementary schools only would require a “great deal of time and planning,” the school system said in a statement.
While going back to a five-day-a-week schedule for elementary schools is the “Plan A” option as of October 1, the state is still allowing school districts to make their own decisions about how to proceed. School districts can continue with the “Plan B” hybrid in-person and online learning schedules, or the “Plan C” of online learning only if local education officials decide that’s best for their community.