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Millers Creek Christian School Principal Laura Sturgill said the school will begin its 2020-21 academic year on Aug. 10 with in-person instruction in all grade levels, but with contingency plans to transition to distance learning if necessary.
Gov. Roy Cooper gave all public schools two options for starting the new year: in-person teaching as long as students present don’t exceed half of a school’s capacity or having all students learn remotely.
This didn’t apply to Millers Creek Christian and other private schools.
“The MCCS School Board made the decision to return with in-person instruction due to the current state of health in Wilkes County and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and the social-emotional and academic needs of our students,” said Sturgill.
The decision also was influenced by the small class sizes at Millers Creek Christian and the fact that ample space throughout the school building allows for social distancing, she added.
Sturgill said school-aged students are encouraged to wear masks at MCCS when social distancing isn’t possible, such as when working on collaborative assignments. She said school-aged staff are required to wear masks when social distancing isn’t possible, such as while reviewing work with individual students.
Parents who don’t require their children to wear face masks during school must complete a face mask waiver form, she said.
Also because of the COVID-19 pandemic, adjustments were made with arrival and dismissal procedures, locker assignments/locker breaks and class transitions to ensure social distancing is observed in hallways at MCCS.
Student desks will be spaced farther apart than normal to support social distancing. Clear table dividers will be used in some classes. Social distancing markers will be placed at the main entrance/main office to ensure visitors practice social distancing.
Sturgill said all students and staff must pass COVID-19 screening before entering the building. This includes a temperature check and questions supplied by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
“If any student or staff member does not pass the screening, they will not be allowed to enter the building. Screening procedures will also be administered to visitors who come to the main office. We are following the screening protocols set forth by NCDHHS in regards to re-admittance procedures.”
She said schedules were adjusted to keep grade levels separate throughout the day. Students will eat lunch in their classrooms or outdoor spaces on campus, rather than the cafeteria.
“Most of our classrooms have handwashing stations and those that do not are near a restroom and are stocked with hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizing stations are at school entrances and exits. Our custodian attended specialized training to ensure that the school remains clean and she will share this information with staff at the opening staff meeting.”
Each classroom will have sanitizing spray to utilize throughout the school day as students transition to various activities. Cleaning procedures will be used for Chromebooks (laptops) to ensure that they remain clean each class period.
Sturgill said the school looks to its conference schedule of varsity conference soccer and volleyball games. The fall middle school schedule was cancelled, but teams will still work on fundamentals and skills throughout the season. The Carolina's Athletic Association for Schools of Choice will revisit the winter sports schedule at the start of October.
Enrollment for school-aged students was about 170 at MCCS at the end of the last school year. She said it should be comparable this coming year, with new students enrolling each day.
“It was through much prayer that the school board and administration decided to begin the school year with in-person instruction. We understand that each family must determine what is most appropriate for their family's health and their children's education during this unique time,” said Sturgill.
The Millers Creek Christian School preschool and summer camp remained open through the pandemic, in accordance with DHHS regulations, she added.
Sturgill said, “Although there will be adjustments as we return to school this fall, we are committed to ensuring the health and well-being of our students, staff and visitors while providing a nurturing environment and rigorous academics.”