LCPS to reopen with a minimum of 9 weeks of virtual instruction

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LENOIR COUNTY, N.C. (WNCT) – School administrators across the east are making key decisions on their back to school plans. 

That includes how Lenoir County Schools will begin its school year.

Students returning to class will need to get out their laptops and other devices. 

The district board’s plan to reopen schools starts with virtual learning for students during the first 9 weeks of the year. 

The coronavirus is creating new challenges for re-opening schools. 

Lenoir County administrators say they understand some families are facing issues with remote learning, including access to the internet. 

The district plans to distribute hotspots to students without broadband service. 

It will also make wi-fi available to families in school parking lots.

Officials say remote learning will rely on a lot of communication. 

“We’re going to do the best we can with zoom meetings, with constant contact and phone calls, through apps we use to communicate with students and parents and we’ll make the best of the situation. We’re actually pretty strong in terms of remote learning and we have a lot of experience in it,” says Patrick Holmes, a spokesperson for Lenoir County Public Schools. 

School administrators will reassess remote learning and in-person class plans after the first 9 weeks of remote learning.  

Leaders say they’ll send information to parents in the next few weeks about remote learning, and how to help kids with it when the school year begins.

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KINSTON, N.C. (WNCT) The Lenoir County Board of Education decided Monday night that all students will begin the 2020-2021 school year as remote learners and, after the first nine weeks, the district’s youngest students could transition to in-person instruction provided certain public health metrics are met.

The plan, approved on a 4-to-3 vote, left open the structure for in-person learning for students in grades pre-kindergarten through second if they return to classrooms after the first grading period in late October and did not specify when students in grades three through 12 might return for face-to-face instruction.

However, it set specific standards related to the containment of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in Lenoir County before any LCPS students could be physically present in schools: a two-week decline in cases and a positive testing rate of 5 percent or less for 14 days prior to the first day of in-person instruction.

The board split not over the idea of reopening with virtual classes but over the length of time students would potentially be kept out of the classroom.

LCPS administrators had recommended a different version of the hybrid plan known as Plan B, which combines in-person instruction with remote learning.

That plan would have opened school with four weeks of remote instruction followed by the return to classrooms for all grade levels on a staggered schedule – two days a week in the classroom and three days of remote learning – to cut the number of students in school at one time by about half.

Like the recommended plan, the hybrid model approved by the board would make in-person instruction available to certain groups of students in the Exceptional Children’s program after the initial period of fully remote learning.

Under any plan, students can continue with fully remote learning if their parents prefer that option.

Superintendent Brent Williams told school board members that by opening with at least four weeks of fully remote learning, the recommended plan gave them an opportunity to assess the plan’s effectiveness and public health concerns in stages.

Lenoir County Health Director Pam Brown, who joined the meeting at Williams’ invitation, characterized the spread of the virus in Lenoir County as “slow and steady” and “not huge, huge spikes,” with her department recording five to 10 new cases a day in July.

As part of his plan to suppress the virus, Gov. Roy Cooper prohibited public schools from reopening with full in-person instruction and mandated they use some version of the hybrid model or, if deemed necessary, to be more restrictive and reopen with remote learning only.

An online survey of parents by LCPS conducted earlier this month found a slight larger number of respondents said they felt “most comfortable” with full-time remote learning for their students.

In a separate survey of LCPS teachers and other employees, respondents gave a slight edge to the hybrid plan over the fully remote plan.

The school year begins for nearly all LCPS students on August 17.

Lenoir County Early College High School begins classes August 10 but will follow the school board’s plan for virtual instruction.

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