BY KARISSA MILLER
Top officials from Iredell-Statesville Schools and Mooresville Graded School District updated county commissioners about their school reopening plans Tuesday evening.
I-SS Superintendent Jeff James and MGSD Superintendent Stephen Mauney discussed their district’s reopening plan for the 2020-2021 school year, which will be executed pursuant to the N.C. Governor’s direction of issuing Plan B.
I-SS serves more than 20,000 students in grades K-12; and MGSD serves more than 6,000 students in grades K-12.
School will begin on August 17 for I-SS and MGSD, but will look different.
I-SS Plan B
James said that the school board voted to authorize in-person attendance at three district high schools on Monday during a special meeting. The plans for the elementary and middle school were approved last week.
The superintendent explained that sometime last week the requirements for Plan B became stricter under the updated school reopening guidelines.
Under the original guidelines, schools could operate at 50 percent capacity. Now, the guidelines require six feet between all students and the 50 percent capacity clause has been dropped.
“The 50 percent would have been better for us,” James said, noting that it gave the district more flexibility.
When measuring and setting up desks in the classroom, the district found that the maximum number of students some classrooms could accommodate is 12 while others are large enough for 20 students.
West Iredell, North Iredell and Statesville High School have student populations of 1,000 or less and will offer in-person instruction up to two days a week, like the elementary and middle schools, and work remotely from home the other days, James said.
Students will rotate days to attend school in-person. On Monday and Tuesday students with last names that begin with the letters A-L will attend school; students whose name begin with letters A-Z will have in-person instruction on Thursday and Friday.
Lake Norman and South Iredell High Schools, the district’s larger schools, have populations expected to push near 1,900 students this school year.
“The logistics would not work out to do that (offer two days of in person instruction) because of the size. They have a little bit of a different modified plan,” James explained.
Lake Norman plans to offer targeted in-person instruction for some students.
Face masks will be required for all students and staff.
“It’s going to be a learning curve for kids in kindergarten to come in and wear a mask all day,” James said.
He explained that the staff will be lenient as children acclimate to wearing a mask at all times.
“I have had several phone calls (asking) about what if a kid continues to refuse to wear a mask,” James said. “It’s called Plan C.”
The state will send the district five washable masks for each student.
James’ said cleaning will take place every day. The district has already spent nearly around $250,000 for cleaning supplies.
“I did want to assure the public we are sanitizing our buildings. We have fog machines that we have purchased and are allowed to put those in classrooms for a deep clean and helps sanitize air conditioning system,” he said.
The schools will be cleaner than Walmart and other establishments a family might routinely visit, James said.
Around 87 percent of I-SS parents who participated in a survey said they wanted students back for face-to-face instruction, he added.
“Childcare is another huge issue. This is where we need community support,” James said.
One option that they are looking into is allowing teachers to have their child be with them at school.
“As I said the other night, ‘We are trying to build this plane while we are flying it,’” James said.
He mentioned that last spring’s virtual learning lessons were very challenging for some of the district teachers and the district is working to improve in that area.
MGSD Plan C
Mauney said that MGSD school board has not adopted their Plan yet, but that the board would meet Tuesday and select either Plan B or Plan C.
The board opted for Plan C on Tuesday. See related article HERE.
MGSD’s schools are configured different than I-SS. The district’s plans are broken down based on the grade spans.
MGSD’s grade configuration is as follows:
• Three elementary schools that serves K-3
• One intermediate school that serves grades 4-6
• One middle school that serves grades 7-8.
• One high school that serves grades 9-12
“These plans are based on some strict constraints that we have been given by the state. In many instances this has proved to be very difficult depending on the different grade levels,” Mauney said.
The student population at the middle school is around 1,000 students while the high school will push a student population of nearly 2,000 for the coming school year.
Under Plan C, all MGSD students will learn remotely. This plan combines live virtual instruction with independent self-paced work and small group enrichment time.
It would be based on grade level, for example, grades K-3, would have 90 minutes of synchronous “live” instruction four days each week.
That time will be broken down into 45 minutes of social studies integration and science and 45 minutes of math on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
Each grade level would have a “What I Need (WIN) Wednesday” for scheduled small group intervention, drop-in tutoring, assignment work, IEP meetings, advisory and morning meeting, synchronous check-ins, ESL and EC services and group counseling.
Childcare is a huge obstacle and issue that has to be addressed, Mauney said. The district does not have the capacity to offer childcare to everyone in Mooresville that needs it, especially in all day four days a week.
Mauney asked commissioners if they could help organize community groups and agencies to provide childcare options for our parents and staff.
Additionally, MGSD will offer a full virtual option for students through the Mooresville Online Academy (MOA). According to Mauney, it will be very similar to the N.C. Virtual model.