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Forty-six (40%) of North Carolina’s 115 public school districts have opted to start the 2020-21 school year with all students engaged in remote learning, according to tracking by the N.C. School Board Association (NCSBA).

The number of districts planning to have students engaged entirely in remote learning continues to grow, said Leanne Winner, NCSBA director of governmental relations. The Watauga, Guilford and New Hanover county schools switched to this option this week, she said.

Gov. Roy Cooper gave school districts the choice of reopening with student attendance not exceeding half of a classroom building’s capacity (Plan B) or with all students learning remotely (Plan C).

Most school districts opening with remote learning only are using it for the first nine weeks. Remote learning involves using computer technology and materials sent home by teachers.

Wilkes School Superintendent Mark Byrd said earlier this month that the Wilkes County Schools will use Plan B. School districts opting for Plan B must provide remote-only learning when requested for any student. Application forms for remote-only learning are on the Wilkes school district website.

For Wilkes and most other districts using Plan B, keeping student attendance from exceeding 50% of capacity means not having the full student body on campus by alternating two groups of students between in-person (in school) and remote learning.

Byrd said that except for those opting for remote learning each day, students in the Wilkes schools will alternate between remote learning one day and in-person learning the next. He said principals will divide their student bodies into two groups, leaving siblings in the same groups, to accomplish this.

“We felt that the option for every other day gave us the best opportunity to have face to face instruction with as many students as possible, we want them back in our schools as much as they can safely be,” said Byrd.

The Madison and Person county schools plan to also have students alternate between remote learning one day and in-person learning the next, according to an NCSBA list of school districts and their plans that Winner provided Wednesday.

Students in all grade levels in the Ashe County Schools will have in-person learning two days and remote learning three days each week. Specifics on rotating between the two learning formats will be announced later, according to the Ashe schools website. 

According to the NCSBA list, nearly 20 other school districts are using the two-day/three-day rotation. This includes elementary and middle school grades in the Alexander County Schools and grades K-8 in the Iredell-Statesville Schools. Grades 9-12 in the Iredell-Statesville Schools will have blended learning, with in-person for courses not lending themselves to remote.

At Alexander Central High School, grades two to 12 in the Caldwell County Schools and at all grade levels in the Yadkin County Schools, one group of students in each school will use remote and another use in-person learning on Mondays and Tuesdays. The two groups will switch on Thursdays and Fridays. Caldwell students in grades K-1 will be in their schools on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. All of these students will have remote learning on Wednesdays, allowing time to clean schools.

At Alexander Central and in all Caldwell and Yadkin schools, students are being divided into two groups based on alphabetical order of last name. Siblings are being kept together. Byrd said principals in each Wilkes school will decide how to divide students into two groups, but siblings will be kept together.

In the Alleghany County and four other districts, each school will have a group spending a week using in-school learning while the other group has remote learning. This will be reversed each week.

The Surry County School District will go entirely with remote learning until Sept. 21, when in-person learning will be reconsidered. The Burke County and Hickory City school districts are also starting with remote learning as the only option.

Students in the Mount Airy City Schools can choose in-person or remote instruction.

Grades four to 12 in the Elkin City Schools will have remote learning until around Sept. 16, when the school board will consider what to do next. Pre-K to third grades and EC self-contained will have in-person instruction each Monday through Thursday and remote learning each Friday.

In the Davie County Schools, K-2 students will have in-person learning each day but Wednesday. Some other districts plan to have in-person learning for lower grades every or most days.

In the Buncombe County Schools, students in kindergarten through eighth grade will have alternating days of in-person learning the first week to meet their teachers. Grades nine-12 students will do the same for the first two weeks. This will be followed by remote learning until Sept. 28.

The Edgecombe County Schools will spend the first week on in-person orientation for students and parents, followed by remote learning for the next five weeks.

Roanoke Rapids City Schools will have remote learning for grades nine-12 and in-person learning for grades K-8 each day.

“Space permitting, all students in Polk County elementary and Polk Early College High School can attend school every day. Polk High School and Polk Middle School students can attend in-person classes two days per week,” stated the NÇSBA document.

Pre-K to fifth grade classes In the Richmond County Schools will be split, with half of the students in one classroom and half in another. One teacher and one teacher assistant, with video technology, will be assigned to each class. Grades four and five will use middle school classrooms. Middle school and high school students will have fulltime remote learning.

The school boards for the Cherokee, Jackson, Clay, Yancey and Swain county schools were scheduled to decide on school opening plans late this week.

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