BY KARISSA MILLER
All Iredell-Statesville Schools middle and high schools are currently operating under Plan B, which is a mix of in-person and virtual learning.
Kelly Cooper, I-SS executive director of secondary education, said that the district realizes the importance and urgency of providing face-to-face instruction for all students.
“We are currently making plans to move to Plan A in order to be able to make a swift adjustment when and if an announcement is made that will allow them to do so,” Cooper said.
The district is closely monitoring the progress of Senate Bill 37. This bill requires all school districts to provide in-person learning for students.
Currently, only schools serving students in grades K-5 in North Carolina are allowed to operate under all in-person instruction under Plan A.
Meanwhile, students in grades 6-12 must operate under Plan B. Under Plan B, schools must maintain social distancing requirements, which limits the number of students that are physically able to attend school on the same day.
Further action by the General Assembly on Senate Bill 37 could change the legal requirements, and thus allow the district to possibly operate 6-12 under Plan A.
“When we heard about this bill, all of our high schools got together and started planning what would it look like if we could should shift to Plan A,” Cooper said.
“I will tell you we were somewhat disappointed last week when we found that we were still under Plan B,” she added.
Cooper mentioned that I-SS has been a leader among other school systems in brining students back into the classroom.
“Many of our surrounding districts are on Plan C for middle and high schools,” she said.
Due to their large student population, South Iredell High School and Lake Norman High School first operated under a virtual model Plan C. In January, the two schools shifted to Plan B.
According to Cooper, school administrators and staff are working daily to increase the number of students attending in-person sessions at those two schools.
“They are making personal phone calls, home visits, sending letters, emails, etc. trying to invite our most at-risk students to campus,” Cooper said. “Our goal is to have students who may be experiencing and or demonstrating learning gaps back to campus five days per week.
South Iredell High School Principal Tim Ivey explained that they have been operating under a cohort plan.
“For about three weeks, we’ve had over 1,000 families say they wanted to send their kids back to school, but in reality, we had only about 660 who were coming to school,” Ivey said.
We’ve told families if they haven’t shown up in person, their kid will become a fully virtual student, he said.
By mid-February, South Iredell High will merge the two cohorts and have between 600 to 700 students on campus daily.
The performing arts and new gym will be turned into a holding area for overflow students. If there are students that are absent in some of the classrooms, then those in the overflow area will have preferential seating along with students with disabilities and other special needs.
“One thing I’m very proud of is what I see is a community that wants to be at school because they feel connected to the school more than just through an educational system. That’s something we work very hard at South Iredell High School — making our community feel like they’re a part of something bigger,” Ivey said.
Lake Norman High Principal Keith Gentle said that he saw a tendency and trend of Lake Norman students to switch back and forth from in-person to virtual.
Many students who returned to in-person learning soon realized that school isn’t how they remembered it and opted to not attend in-person, he explained.
“The ones we need to get in are sometimes the most difficult to get in,” Gentle said, noting that some students are working and/or are enjoying new found flexibility in their schedule.
Gentle said he’s been collecting data regarding which students are showing up in person vs just choosing to Zoom in to class. Some of the advanced students are doing well learning virtually, but Gentle said he’d like to get them back into class.
As the school continues to bring in more students, similar to South’s plan, Gentle is concerned about the overflow management.
“My concern is (when I tell a parent) I can’t get her son into class and they have to go sit in the gym. I don’t have the staff to manage that situation. I’m concerned about that,” Gentle said.
He mentioned that there are many different challenges and their situation is a little different from South’s because they are looking at bringing back 800 to 900 students back to campus.