By Catharin Shepard •
Staff writer •
Hoke County’s elementary schools will return to in-person classes four days a week starting in January, with an online learning option available for parents who prefer to keep their child at home. A new survey going out to parents of elementary students later this month will give families the chance to choose which option they prefer.
The Hoke County Board of Education chose to move forward with implementing “Plan A” for its eight elementary schools beginning next semester. When students return to class after the winter break, elementary schools will be back to face-to-face classes Monday through Thursday. Fridays will continue to be online-only for all Hoke County students, to allow for cleaning and disinfection of the buildings, and teacher development and lesson planning.
Parents of elementary school children in Hoke County Schools have one of two options: send their child back to school for four days a week of in-person classes, with remote learning on Friday; or choose Hoke County Schools Online remote learning only, and keep their child at home.
“We will be asking parents to make a commitment to whether they will move to Plan A, or some parents might want to move to HCS online,” Assistant Superintendent Dr. Debra Dowless said. “It’s important to know that the second semester, which is when we will start on this, January 6, is there will be no Plan B when we come back. When we come back the options will be the Plan A, four days a week face to face and one day remote, or HCS online, which is the five days remote.”
The change will only affect elementary schools. Hoke’s middle and high school students will continue to have a choice between “Plan B” or “Plan C” for the start of the spring semester. “Plan A” is not an option for middle or high school students in Hoke County.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper chose to allow school districts the option of bringing back in-person classes for elementary schools only, starting November 1. Hoke County Schools sent out a survey for elementary school parents to share their thoughts and preferences with school leaders. The Board of Education reviewed the results and elected to move forward with “Plan A” for elementary students starting in January.
The governor has not yet chosen to allow public middle or high schools to open under “Plan A.” Cooper and Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), announced earlier this fall that elementary schools had the option of reopening under “Plan A.” State officials allowed the option on the basis of studies claiming that younger children are less likely to spread COVID-19, and less likely to experience any serious symptoms from the illness.
The school system has been working on preparations for elementary students’ return to school, Dowless said. They’ve purchased and are installing desk shields to provide some additional protection to students, and will continue checking temperatures at the door each day among other safety measures.
The schools plan to send out another survey to gauge parents’ thoughts and wishes for their children. The survey will go out to elementary parents November 19, and must be returned by December 1. Elementary school principals will be tracking the responses as they come in to be able to know how many students to expect for in-person classes in January.
“We recognize it’s an incredibly personal decision for families, so we want to make sure we have those options for parents,” Dowless said.
The schools also plan to make phone calls to pre-K families to work with them on how best to provide services for the schools’ youngest students.
The school transportation office will also be watching the responses to know how many elementary students will be riding a school bus in January. The schools plan to continue with a transportation plan of one student per seat on the bus, with an exception for students who live together in the same household.
The plan is to have the elementary school class rosters and transportation schedules set prior to Christmas break, Dowless said. The schools will also be working with teachers so they know what to expect when classes resume in January, as some may be switching from face-to-face to online only instruction, and some online-only teachers may be switching to face-to-face instruction.
“All of those logistical things really need to be looked at,” Dowless said.
Elementary parents can be on the lookout for the survey when it goes out November 19. The survey will close December 1. The schools will also host virtual information sessions for elementary families between now and then.
For more information, visit https://www.hcs.k12.nc.us/ or contact your child’s school with questions.