BY MELINDA SKUTNICK
Following Mooresville Graded School District’s decision to provide full-time in-person instruction to K-5 students starting October 19, the district has experienced a significant increase in demand for the Mooresville Online Academy at the elementary and intermediate levels.
During Tuesday’s MGSD Board of Education meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Instruction Scott Smith noted that attendance within the MOA among kindergarten through fifth-graders has increased from 250 students to “a little over 500.”
At the onset of the school year, under COVID-19 precautions and virtual-only learning, the MOA required a full-year commitment from elementary and intermediate students. Upon the board-approved classroom return for K-5 students, enrollment in the MOA reopened for K-5 students and their families.
In September, the Board of Education approved a return to the classroom for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. This was known as Option 1 under Plan A in MGSD. On Monday those students started a staggered two-week transition period that would integrate and educate on health and safety protocols throughout the school day before a full return of all children on November 2.
Sharing the MOA increase briefly during his instructional report at the monthly Board meeting, Smith said that an additional 13 teachers and five teacher assistants were added to the MOA staff to manage the increased enrollment. Additionally, Meghan McGrath has transitioned in recent weeks from principal of East Mooresville Intermediate School to MOA principal.
Smith reported that the return to in-person instruction has been positive thus far.
“Knock on wood. Things are going well,” he told the Board, adding that teachers and students alike are “getting in the routine” during these transitional weeks.
The first cohort of students in K-3 grades returned on Monday and Tuesday with the second cohort returning Thursday and Friday. At the intermediate level, 25 percent of students in grades four and five will attend Monday through Thursday each week until a full return in November.
Smith also addressed some of the most common questions from parents, staff and the community as kids return to MGSD schools. Plans are already prepared, he said, for pivoting swiftly should a student, a teacher or an entire classroom require isolation or quarantine. That includes the use of substitutes.
“We have approximately 40 substitutes who have said they are willing to work in our district at this time,” said Ingrid Medlock, assistant superintendent for human resources.
An initial training session to welcome back substitutes was hosted earlier in October with a second session scheduled for Thursday.
As in-person instruction continues to unfold during the district’s upcoming weeks – following nine initial weeks of all-virtual study – Superintendent Stephen Mauney shared “a few cautionary statements as we move forward with the return of our kids to on-campus interactions.”
Mauney told the Board and small audience on Tuesday that MGSD continues to monitor district COVID-19 cases and statistics across Iredell County as well as the state. With that said, he added, “please understand that there will be little if any advance warning before those quarantine calls are made.”
MGSD will work with the Iredell County Health Department for contact tracing and protocol delivery as quickly as possible to protect students. Mauney said this diligent work will often “leave little lead time” for alerting parents to a need to isolate their children, including in circumstances when an entire school may be closed due to a breakout.
Added Mauney: “This is something that is really beyond our control … parents need to start to think in advance for how they will handle those situations when they arise. We may have to close a school or a number of schools — that may happen with less than 24-hours notice. We must be prepared to change plans and go to virtual learning at a moment’s notice.”
Acknowledging the “very short turnaround time,” Mauney continued, “I’m not making these cautionary statements to raise alarm or create panic. I just want to be sure that we all have an understanding of the situation that we’re currently in and how we can move forward together.”
Also during Tuesday’s meeting:
• The Board of Education and Mauney recognized its district retirees – 15 individuals across departments with a combined total of 300 years in public education.
• The Board recognized its monthly recipient for its ABCD Awards – Jeff Little, assistant director of maintenance and electrical technician in the MGSD maintenance department.
• Chief Financial Officer Terry Haas requested approval from the Board for the sale of technology property and the reallocation of funds toward new Apple devices, which are used across the district and grade levels. The Board unanimously approved the sale of MGSD’s equipment via a private sale to AGIRepair. Four bids were received and considered to determine the best potential offer. The Board also unanimously approved the reallocation of sale funds and the approval of a new lease with Apple for new equipment. The MGSD refreshes its equipment approximately every three years. The new lease includes three years of payments totaling $1,121,236.84 for new laptops and iPads across grades K-12.
• MGSD also recognized its Board of Education, which was recently awarded the 2020 Gold Bell Award for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. The Gold Bell Award is the highest honor that is awarded to district whose board members have earned 12 or more hours of professional development and training during the year. MGSD’s Board achieved an average of 43.8 hours per person and a total of 219 hours of professional development. MGSD is one of 11 districts across North Carolina to earn this achievement for the previous fiscal year.
The MGSD Board of Education’s next regular meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on November 10 at the Mooresville High School Performing Arts Center.