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LCPS to fully implement Plan A instruction April 12

Effective April 12, more LCPS students in all grade levels will have the option of returning to school for face-to-face instruction as the district transitions to the state’s Plan A and its less restrictive physical distancing requirements.

The Lenoir County Board of Education unanimously approved the move at its March 29 meeting, specifying that students who opt for face-to-face instruction will continue to come to school a maximum of four days a week, with Wednesdays still designated a remote learning day for all students and a day for deep cleaning at the schools.

The district will continue to offer a fully remote option. About 36 percent of LCPS students are learning from home five days a week.

Students also have the option of coming to school two days a week in one of two cohorts and learning remotely the other three, a hybrid, or Plan B, model in effect in the district since late September.

Since the great majority of face-to-face students are already at school four days a week, an option available since mid-January, the move to Plan A is anticipated to be relatively seamless.

That is a goal of the transition, according to Superintendent Brent Williams.

“Our guiding mission is to finish the school year strongly and to provide even greater instructional access and increased educational opportunities for all of our students,” he said. “Under Plan A, we will essentially expand the four-day-a week option while continuing to offer the fully remote and hybrid options that serve specific segments of our students.”

Parents whose students want to move from the fully remote or two-day-a-week options to four days a week of face-to-face instruction under Plan A are asked to notify their school of their plans to change.

Plan A expands access to face-to-face instruction by creating more capacity on school buses and in classes and should eliminate the waiting lists of students who requested the four-day-a-week schedule but could not be accommodated because of space restrictions.

At E.B. Frink Middle School, for example, about 70 percent of the school’s some 600 students already attend in person, but about 40 students are waiting to return to face-to-face instruction. Their wait should soon be over, according to principal Michael Moon.

“We had already been whittling away at the waiting list as much as possible within the confines of the CDC guidelines under which we had been operating, and with the governor’s recent announcement and our school board’s subsequent decision this week, we are very excited about the opportunity to take another significant step toward a ‘return to normalcy,’” Moon said.

Gov. Roy Cooper allowed the state’s elementary schools to operate under Plan A in October and in early March reached an agreement with Republican legislative leaders to extend the Plan A option to middle and high schools.

Plan A allows face-to-face instruction in an environment very similar to pre-pandemic public school. LCPS expects to adopt those aspects of Plan A that allow more students on buses and in classrooms, but also to retain many public health measures instituted under Plan B.

Here’s what will change with Plan A:

· More students on school buses. The six-foot rule of Plan B reduced ridership to about a third of capacity, essentially allotting one student per seat.

· More students in classrooms. Although Plan A specifies only “minimal social distancing,” LCPS expects to maintain the six-foot rule where possible in classrooms and to distance students a minimum of three feet.

Here’s what will not change with Plan A:

· Public health precautions, including temperature and symptom screenings for all students, teachers and visitors; the requirement that face coverings be worn on buses and at school; Covid-19 rapid testing for symptomatic students and teachers; and limiting visitors to school.

· Breakfast and lunch service. Students will continue to take their meals in their classrooms as a way to avoid large gatherings.

· LCPS’s feeding program. Because a significant number of students remain remote learners and do not have access to meals at school, curbside pickup of meals will continue each weekday at 15 schools (all but Early College and Lenoir County Learning Academy, which lack kitchens) and meal delivery will continue on Wednesdays to 25 locations around the county.

· Length of the school day. School will begin at 8 a.m. and end at 2 p.m., another nod by LCPS to family routines that have been the rule since September.

Adoption of Plan A represents the fourth iteration of reopening plans for the district this school year. After closing abruptly in mid-March under a state-ordered mandate to public schools, LCPS reopened Aug. 17 with five weeks of fully remote instruction. In September, the district moved to Plan B, the hybrid model that brought back students who chose that option for a combination of two days in-person instruction and three days of remote instruction. In January, Plan B was expanded to include a four-day option, but with the physical distancing measures absent from Plan A.

At Frink Middle, Moon expects the latest change to have the desired effect – more students on hand for face-to-face instruction.

“Based on feedback we are receiving from parents we are contacting this week, I anticipate our student numbers to increase,” the principal said. “In addition to students who were already on a waiting list to return to school either two or four days, we are also contacting additional students who had previously chosen virtual learning to gauge their interest in returning to school on campus four days per week.”