WILMINGTON — On Tuesday, the New Hanover County Board of Education will take up the issue of whether to move from all-remote instruction (‘Plan C’) to a hybrid of in-class and remote learning (‘Plan B’) — a difficult decision that will likely disappoint and anger some parents regardless of what the board chooses.
Despite a misleading email sent to parents of Walter L. Parsley Elementary School students, the move to Plan B is not a done deal.
While NHCS initially announced in mid-July it would re-open under Plan B, a week later then-Interim Superintendent Dr. Del Burns urged the Board to choose Plan C. The Board heeded this suggestion and in late July committed to going all-remote through October 2, the end of the first marking period on the traditional school-year calendar.
The vote delayed the implementation of Plan B to the second marking period, but it was clear that the district would continue to watch the data and that a move to Plan B would not automatically happen in October.
Interviewed last week by WHQR, new Superintendent Dr. Charles Foust said a decision for the second marking period hadn’t been made yet. Foust said he wanted to consult medical professionals before making a recommendation, but acknowledged that no decision would please everyone.
If the board approves a move to Plan B, the district’s plan is to rotate one-third of the student body through a week of in-class instruction at a time, followed by two weeks engaging in remote learning.
The district has modified its approach to Plan B since July, and will allow students to remain remote during the in-class week if their parents are not comfortable sending them for in-class instruction; students will not be counted absent if they are actively participating in required activities and assignment.
The district has also held open enrollment for the all-remote Virtual Academy; after announcing a deadline for enrollment in late August, the district was hit with a flood of interest in the program.
Last week, some parents expressed concern and confusion after receiving an email from Walter L. Parsley Elementary School Principal Dr. Robin Hamilton. The email was sent on the same day that Foust’s interview with WHQR aired, with Foust explicitly saying no decision had been made yet.
“Currently, we are operating under Plan C, full remote instruction. Beginning the second quarter, our Board has voted for us to transition into Plan B. Currently, the Board’s Plan B is for one-third of the students to attend school for one full week, while the other two-thirds of students engage in remote learning,” Hamilton wrote.
A district spokesperson said they were not familiar with Hamilton’s email and declined to answer directly if it was inaccurate. It does seem the email was at least misleading since the Board has not settled the question and is slated to discuss in Tuesday and “determine if the district will remain in Plan C or move into Plan B to begin the 2nd grading period,” according to the agenda for the meeting.
Bottom line: the board will have to vote on what comes next, whether that’s a move to Plan B or remaining in Plan C. While the board is set to discuss that vote on Tuesday, an actual decision may not be made until the board’s early October meeting.
While Governor Roy Cooper’s ‘Phase 2.5,’ announced on September 1, allows indoor gatherings of up to 25 people, NHCS has continued to limit public gatherings to 10 people.
According to a NHCS spokesperson, this is because the district is following CDC guidelines; however, when it comes to community events, the CDC says only that it “does not have a limit or recommend a specific number of attendees for these types of events and instead encourages event organizers to focus on ways to limit people’s contact with each other. Each event organizer will need to determine the appropriate number for their setting in collaboration with local health officials. They should also check state, county, and city rules regarding any current restrictions limiting the number of attendees at events.”
The Board of Education meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 15, at 5:30 p.m. The general public will have the option to view remotely via live streaming on Roku, Apple TV, and online at NHCS-TV or on Spectrum Cable Channel 5, according to NHCS.
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