Special to Iredell Free News

Iredell-Statesville Schools officials are closely monitoring the N.C. General Assembly’s efforts to “provide access to in-person learning” for all public school students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Senate Bill 37, which aims to accomplish just that, has passed one reading in the N.C. Senate. However, it is not law, and is subject to further change and/or competing revisions from the House. Additionally, there is also the potential for veto from the Gov. Roy Cooper.

Cooper joined N.C. education leaders earlier this week in calling for schools to reopen to in-person learning.

Public Schools in North Carolina continue to follow the Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit, provided by the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), which was updated after the first reading of House Bill 37 on February 2.

The Toolkit continues to be law. In the February 2 revision, the legal requirements to choose from Plan A, Plan B and Plan C did not change from the December 4, 2020 version of the toolkit.

The Toolkit now says the following:
● K – 5 students “should” return to in-person instruction 5 days per week “to the fullest extent possible while following all public health protocols” in the Toolkit using Plan A (i.e. symptom screening and mask-wearing requirements remain in place, however, 6 feet social distancing is not required);
● 6 – 12 students “should” return to in-person instruction 5 days per week “to the fullest extent possible while following all public health protocols” in the Toolkit using Plan B (i.e. 6 feet social distancing is required, in addition to symptom screening and mask-wearing requirements);
● It is “expected” that all students and teachers will be offered full-time remote educational opportunities if they are “higher risk”;
● It is “expected” that full-time remote education will be offered to “families opting for remote learning for their children”; and
● School districts continue to “have flexibility in how they choose to operationally implement the public health requirement in this toolkit.”

The interim Toolkit contains a preference for school systems to select Plan A for K – 5 and Plan B for 6 – 12. School districts continue to be prohibited from using Plan A for 6 – 12. Thus Plan B social distancing requirements for 6-12 limits the number of students that are able to physically attend on the same day.

I-SS is operating in Plan A for students in grades K-5 and Plan B for students in grades 6-12.

The district is working to ensure that every building in grades 6-12 is operating at the maximum student capacity while still following social distancing guidelines outlined by the NCDHHS. School administrators continue to work to build student capacity at each school, based on the specific capacity on each campus.

There are no changes to the current I-SS Plan for in-person learning at this time.

Further action by the General Assembly on Senate Bill 37 could change the legal requirements, and thus the scheduling of students in grades 6-12 in Iredell-Statesville Schools.

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