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The 2020-21 School Year During COVID-19 in Guilford County

By: Y Michael Yin, JD

https://www.dpi.nc.gov/news/covid-19-response-resources/lighting-our-way-forward

As the new school year looms ahead, many parents are understandably concerned about how the state and Guilford County Schools (GCSNC) are going to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The safety and education of your children are paramount. This post aims to be an introduction point; if you wish to fully explore the situation, links are provided.

What is the current plan?

Governor Cooper and the State Board of Education, with input from Department of Health and Social Services (DHHS), gave careful consideration to three possible plans for reopening schools. On July 14, 2020, they announced that the state will move forward with Plan B: moderate social distancing, with the option of doing Plan C based on local needs.

What does this mean?

Plan B opens the schools and limits the density of people in facilities to meet DHHS requirements. At this time, a highlight* of those requirements include (Plan B measures are in bold):

  • Social distancing
    • Providing markers on floors and seating areas to show 6 feet apart
    • Arrange furniture and seating for 6-foot distancing
    • Limiting total numbers of people in a building to ensure 6 feet distancing, including outside spaces as well
    • Staff monitoring arrivals and dismissals to encourage social distancing
    • Physical education courses that adhere to distancing
    • Staff are to be 6 foot apart when they congregate
    • Reminders to students and staff adhere to 6-foot distance
  • Cloth face coverings
    • All students K-12 and all staff and all visitors must wear a face covering when they are or may be within a 6-foot distance from another person. Exceptions apply: eating/drinking, engaged in strenuous physical activity while maintaining a 6 foot distance, and exceptions found in the DHHS guidance
  • Protect vulnerable populations
    • These are individuals who are 65 and older or have a high-risk condition such as asthma, lung disease, heart disease, compromised immune systems, severe obesity, and other medical conditions that may be difficult to manage.
    • A process will be determined for how to show that an individual requires a plan for alternative learning arrangements.
    • Implementing learning options for those that are unable to go to school or choose to remain at home for health reasons.
  • Cleaning and Hygiene
    • Handwashing for at least 20 seconds, and use of sanitizers
    • Routine environmental cleaning and disinfecting
    • Limited sharing of personal items
    • Separation of personal items from the class
    • Limit sharing of group items and classroom materials
  • Handling suspected or positive cases of COVID-19
    • Establishing dedicated spaces for symptomatic individuals only
    • Isolation and supervision of said individuals until they are transported home or to medical care
    • Notifying health authorities and complying with the regulations for confidentiality
    • Process for allowing an individual to return:
      • Negative test: as soon as fever has subsided without the use of fever-reducers, and have felt healthy and fit for at least 24 hours
      • Positive test or no test:
        • If they have had no symptoms for 10 days since onset
        • At least 3 days since fever
        • At least 3 days since cough/shortness of breath
  • Confirmation that it is an illness that is not COVID-19 and the individual has no fever and have felt well for at least 24 hours
  • If positive test and asymptomatic, 10 days since the date of a positive test, as long as symptoms do not develop
  • NO negative test is required for reentry
  • If an individual is determined to have been exposed to COVID-19, they must quarantine for 14 days; if testing positive, following the above-mentioned procedure
  • Provide remote options for those unable to be in school
  • Transportation
    • Face coverings in buses
    • Cleaning and disinfecting
    • Open windows for ventilation and air flow
    • Plans for getting children home safely if they are unable to use the bus
    • Plans in the event a student or driver becomes sick
    • No more than one passenger per seat on a bus
    • No more than two passengers per seat in a contracted vehicle

*NOTE: these are not all the guidelines and requirements, and they may change due to the ongoing pandemic. Please refer to DHHS for updates. See this link for full requirements.

 

What is Guilford County planning and what can you do?

First, the county has decided that the first 5 weeks of schooling be remote. This is to better prepare facilities, educate staff, and collect more data on the ongoing conditions in the county. The GCSNC Board of Education will hold a remote meeting to vote on one of three scenarios for how school will be conducted when the doors open.

            Scenario A: K-8 full time in school, and 9-12 full time remote.

            Scenario B: Blended where all students will rotate in two groups – 2 days in school and 3 days remote, with Wednesday as a complete remote day.

            Scenario C: Blended where all students will rotate in two groups – 1 week in school and 1 week remote.

Each scenario has its pros and cons. And the county recognizes that not all schools are the same, and not all families operate the same. This is where your input is important. The GCSNC Superintendent proposed Scenario A as the starting point. Now is the time to fully inform yourselves of each option and decide if they work for your situation. For those parents in Guilford County, your voices can be heard. If you wish to voice your concerns or give the Board input, email boardofed@gcsnc.com with the subject line: “Public Comment 7/28/2020.” Alternatively, you may call 336-370-8100 for instructions. If you have concerns about a specific custody arrangement, please contact your attorney.