A revised 2020-21 Wilkes County Schools calendar that reflects having K-12 students rotating between in-person learning one day and remote learning the next was released Tuesday by Wilkes School Superintendent Mark Byrd.
The new calendar is based on Gov. Roy Cooper’s July 14 directive limiting schools to 50% of capacity instead of having all students on campus at the same time. The objective is to facilitate social distancing and help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
This is Plan B, one of three operating models all school districts were told to be prepared to use when the new academic year begins.
Cooper said districts also could use Plan C, which is having all students engaged in remote learning each day. Plan A, not an option now, is having all students in their classrooms as normal and with measures to help prevent spread of COVID-19.
To alternate between classroom and online learning as called for in Plan B, each Wilkes school’s student body will be divided into Group A and Group B. On days when students in Group A aren’t in their classrooms, they’ll be engaged in online classes while at home and vice versa.
“While we realize that this calendar will present challenges for some, we felt it was in the best interest of providing the best educational opportunity for all students, ranging from the early grades up through our high school students taking college classes, while also allowing for social distancing for student safety,” said Byrd.
He said other options considered led to clear differences in the number of days students were in their classrooms or were engaged in online learning. “We did not want any student to be put at a disadvantage simply because they were a part of Group A or Group B.”
Byrd said principals at each school are working to determine which of their students are in Group A or Group B and this information will be shared moving forward.
“We asked principals to make decisions based on what is best for the students. They have a better understanding of the individual needs of students” for their success. He said this includes having principals work closely with families to ensure siblings are on the same calendar.
“We will do our best to keep parents updated, as the information we are receiving changes daily. For example, some guidelines for limitations on campuses changed last week after Governor Cooper’s announcement about Plan B, but not enough to allow for adjustments to our plan,” said Byrd.
“We appreciate everyone’s patience as we try to plan during a changing situation.”
While the Wilkes schools are accomplishing the 50% capacity directive by having students in classrooms every other day, Plan B scenarios vary among other school districts.
The Ashe County Schools will have a two-by-three plan, with students in one group in school for two days and learning remotely for three days each week and vice versa for the other group.
In the Yadkin and Watauga county schools, students in one group will be in classrooms on Mondays and Tuesdays and those in the other group in classrooms on Thursdays and Fridays. Students will be engaged in remote learning on days they aren’t in classrooms and on Wednesdays.
Byrd said last week that rotating between in-person and remote learning every other day was chosen for the Wilkes schools because it allows all students the most time in classrooms.
The latest Wilkes calendar has nine days off for students during the Christmas period instead of 11 in the calendar it replaced and the same full week off for Thanksgiving (Nov. 23-27). Classes will start on Aug. 17 and end on May 25. In the prior calendar, classes started on Aug. 17 and ended on May 26.
Byrd said the Wilkes County Schools could have to change to Plan C on a very short notice if COVID-19 metrics severely worsen. “Along those lines, however, is the hope that we see all students return in person (Plan A) as soon as it is safe for them to do so.”
The governor stated that school districts using Plan B must give students the option of engaging in remote learning each day. Application forms for this option are on the Wilkes County Schools website.