Here’s why Hoke County Schools won’t bring high schools back on Plan A – yet

By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • While Hoke County elementary and middle schools will offer four days a week of in-person instruction beginning April 12, most high school students will still only have the option of being on campus two days a week.

Hoke County Schools announced the decision last week in the wake of Gov. Roy Cooper signing a bill into law. The law requires school districts in the state to offer in-person instruction at all elementary schools, with the option to offer it in middle and high schools.

Online-only is still a choice for families of students in elementary, middle or high school who don’t want to send their children back to in-person class just yet. The plan to return also includes multiple safety precautions, but less social distancing.

While Hoke school leaders decided to offer four days a week of classroom instruction for the middle schools, officials felt it wasn’t the right time to switch high school students to Plan A.

Dr. Shannon Register, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education, explained why administrators weren’t ready to move Hoke High and SandHoke to Plan A.

“Several variables influenced the decision to move the middle schools to Plan A and continue high school on Plan B,” Register explained. “While it is certainly our intent to maximize the amount of face-to-face time all of our students have, we felt that for the high schools, Plan B was the best option. This challenging decision was based on (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) CDC guidance, consistency for teachers and students, and a commitment to continued access to college courses.”

One of the main strategies supported by the CDC is “cohorting” or “podding” students to help reduce the likelihood of spreading the virus.

“Since middle schools function as teams, it is more manageable in terms of scheduling and controlling student movement to minimize transmission across pods or groups of students.  This mitigation strategy is not available to our high schools,” Register wrote in an email.

Additionally, there are logistics issues that made it harder to switch high school students to Plan A.

“The shift to Plan A would require high schools to change teacher assignments for some students which can be a major interruption in learning for students at this point in the semester,” Register wrote. “Shifting class schedules to accommodate all students on Plan A would not be beneficial for some as this may cause schedule conflicts that impede a students’ ability to participate in college courses.”

And, unlike middle schools which have a year-long schedule, high school students take different courses in the fall and spring semesters. Implementing changes mid-semester “would be disruptive to learning consistency,” the assistant superintendent said.

Some high school students’ families will have the option of in-person learning four days a week, even though Hoke High and SandHoke at large are staying on Plan B. The new law requires schools offer in-person learning four days a week for any child who has an IEP Plan or a 504 Plan, Register clarified.

“High School Administrators (SHEC and HCHS) will continue to work closely with families to accommodate student learning needs,” she said.

All students will be on spring break from April 2 (Good Friday) through Sunday, April 11. Plan A starts for students in elementary and middle school when they return Monday, April 12.

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