BY MELINDA SKUTNICK
Days prior to the start of the new school year, Mooresville Graded School District administrators provided final details about the virtual start of the fall semester during the monthly Board of Education meeting.
“Even though we’re in the midst of this pandemic, the workload has definitely remained challenging, but, as always, we’ll be ready for our kids on Monday,” Superintendent Stephen Mauney said during the meeting — which featured face masks and social distancing – at Mooresville High School’s Performing Arts Center.
From human resources to business services, instruction and public communications, the district’s administrative team provided updates from their respective areas regarding remote learning. In mid-July, the Board selected to start the school year under Plan C, virtual learning only. This will take place for at least the first nine weeks of classes.
Todd Black, assistant superintendent of secondary instruction, said tremendous effort has gone into preparing for the new school year.
“I cannot say enough good things about the time and the effort that our principals and admin teams have put into making sure our students are prepared and that our students will have a meaningful program under Plan C,” he said. “People seem to think it’s very similar to what we did in the spring, but it’s totally not. It’s a whole new way of teaching again.”
Black reported that 54 students from Mooresville Middle School selected the Mooresville Online Academy for the upcoming school year with an additional 38 students opting for MOA at Mooresville High School. At the kindergarten through sixth grade level, 217 students registered for the MOA, said Scott Smith, assistant superintendent of elementary instruction. He also noted that the district will welcome 389 kindergarteners to the district – only a minor decrease from the 401 new registrations for 2019-2020.
“I honestly thought it would be less, but it was nice,” commented Smith. “It’s less by 12 students, but I thought it would be more significant than that.”
Across all grade levels, Smith and Black also highlighted the addition of social and emotional support services being added to the curriculum in light of remote learning. Teachers continue to receive professional development toward the new programs, which will be required learning for students. Daily lessons are slated for K-6 children with weekly instruction for middle and high schoolers.
“One of our main foci is to make sure their safety and wellbeing is most important,” Smith said.
Following numerous updates about students, teachers and staff plans for tackling virtual learning in the first weeks of a new school year, Mauney shared expressed for 2020-2021 and hopes for overcoming the district’s latest obstacles.
“We will continually assess our remote learning plans and make adjustments as necessary to best serve our students,” he said, noting that the MGSD will remain in constant contact with local health authorities and the state to monitor COVID-19. “Our goal is to return to in-person, safe instruction as soon as we are able to do so … Hopefully we will be able to make a transition to more in-person learning as soon as possible.”
Also during Tuesday’s MGSD Board of Education meeting:
• Chief Operating Officer Michael Royal noted that most of summertime’s capital projects are “in process or completed,” including districtwide painting, necessary window replacements, roof work at the Magnolia Campus of MHS and new concrete at Mooresville Intermediate School. He also updated the Board about architectural projects planned for Park View and South elementary schools as well as plans for a new middle school. Work is scheduled to increase in January or February at the elementary level with a late spring groundbreaking anticipated for the Rinehardt Road middle school campus.
• Ingrid Medlock, assistant superintendent of human resources, shared that the district will “not be using substitute teachers at this time.” Plans are in place to address lengthy leaves of absence, such as maternity leave, among teachers. However, day-by-day substitutes will not be utilized during remote learning in MGSD.
• The Board acknowledged two recipients for its ABCD Awards – “folks who are willing to do what it takes” for students, who go above-and-beyond the call of duty, said Board Chair Roger Hyatt. Those recipients are Shelley Deneen, data manager and technology technician for the school nutrition department, and Laura Slaughter, administrative assistant and curriculum support at MGSD central services.
• Chief Financial Officer Terry Haas reported that the N.C. General Assembly “has started to release [financial] allotments” for the new school year. She anticipates bringing a full budget to the Board of Education for approval in September; however, Haas noted that “it’s not going to be a pretty picture this year.” An interim budget was approved by the Board in June.
• Haas also presented numerous changes – deletions, additions and revisions – to Board policies, including Title IX, which tackles topics such as discrimination, harassment and sexual assault. The policies were approved unanimously on a temporary basis to meet the state deadline of August 14. The MGSD Board will have another opportunity to review and approve formally at the September meeting, scheduled for September 15 at 6 p.m. at the MHS Performing Arts Center.