BY KARISSA MILLER
After almost two months at 50-percent capacity, Iredell-Statesville Schools were able to open the doors of the district’s elementary at full capacity on Monday.
The reopening followed Gov. Roy Cooper’s announcement last month that elementary schools around the state would be allowed the option to operate under Plan A, which reduces social distancing requirements in classrooms.
Under Plan A, more students are allowed back into the classrooms at one time with safety protocols still in place, including temperature checks and mandatory mask use.
Each school will continue to provide mask breaks for students, who will social distance as much as possible throughout the day.
Lunch looks different for each elementary school. Some schools have students eat lunch inside the classroom, cafeteria or outside to allow for more space.
School playgrounds are now open — with social distancing and handwashing before and after.
Elementary principals said Monday felt like it was the first day of the school year all over again in some ways.
“Some of the principals said it was just like the first day of school all over again,” said I-SS Executive Director of Secondary Education Jonathan Ribbeck. “Excited parents, students and the normal delays in the drop-off lines, but nothing but positive.”
The district has more than 8,000 students enrolled in its traditional elementary schools for in-person and virtual instruction.
Unless approved by their school’s principal, all fully virtual students will have to remain virtual until next semester, which starts on January 5, 2021.
During the Board of Education meeting on Monday, board chairman Martin Page said early reports have been positive.
“Things went well today — our first day back for our elementary kids,” Page said. “I’ve had such positive response from elementary teachers. The ones I talked to were thrilled to be coming back. Parents were thrilled to be coming back.”
School officials said that younger children benefit most from in-person schooling, and it is believed that youngsters are less at-risk for serious complications from COVID-19. The district’s leadership team and principals also want to close learning gaps from their time out of school last spring.
The reopening plan doesn’t apply to students in middle and high school. Students in grades 6-12 will still operate under a hybrid plan of in-person and remote instruction.
In the meantime, district officials are planning and pushing ahead for when they do get the OK to open their doors at full capacity.