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UPDATE: Onslow school board votes for staggered return to class for elementary students

Kindergarten and first grade students will return four days a week October 5. Older students will phase in until all elementary students return five days a week on November 30.
Published: Sep. 18, 2020 at 7:18 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 21, 2020 at 7:52 PM EDT
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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - The Onslow County School Board has voted for a staggered return of different grades to in-person learning.

The board chose to take up Gov. Cooper’s announcement Thursday to allow districts to put elementary-aged students back in classrooms under Plan A.

Presented with 3 different options, the board voted to go with the third one.

In that option:

October 5th - Kindergarten to 1st graders return to in-person learning on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.

October 19th - 2nd and 3rd graders return to in-person learning on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday

November 2nd - 4th and 5th graders return to in-person learning on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday

November 30th - Kindergarten through 5th grade return to Monday through Friday learning.

The district is currently using Plan B, with two days of in-person learning and three days of virtual learning per week. School officials have been hoping for the return to fully in-person learning since before Gov. Cooper’s announcement in July, arguing it’s the best scenario for students in the district.

“In educating the student we’re just not educating them in basic skills,” said Onslow School Board Chair Pam Thomas. “We’re educating the whole child with their mental health, their socialization, their relationship-building. This is very important particularly in the early grades that they learn those basics.”

Some teachers in the district, however, have raised a red flag over the time this meeting was called. The board called a special meeting Friday morning for 1 p.m. Monday, about two hours before schools in the district are dismissed.

“Most of the educators that I’ve spoken with, and the parents think it’s just a way to subvert our voices,” said Southwest Elementary School Teacher’s Aid Doug Patton. “So that we are not informed. We are not asked of how we want to implement the plan and when we want to implement the plan. We want the kids back in school, but we want to do it safely.”

Onslow County School Board meetings are typically held Monday evenings at 6:30 p.m. Thomas claimed the earlier start time was to expedite the process of putting kids back in the classroom full-time.

“Teachers have gotten up with us, as well as parents. So, it wasn’t intentionally set so they couldn’t come,” said Thomas. “We felt that we needed to get this started. And, it may have been a choice that we might not have even opened on October 5, but we had not decided any of that until today.”

Board members and teachers agreed the best education is in-person, but the best interest was to do that safely.

“I think it was amicable for all the educators as well to make the adjustment,” said Patton. “Smaller class sizes to make sure we’re taking those precautions and making sure we’re keeping everybody safe. So, I think we just need to make sure it’s all in the best interests of our students and our educators.”

Previous Story:

Onslow County elementary students could head back fully in-person soon.

The Onslow County Board of Education is expected to vote in a special meeting called Monday on a plan to send elementary school students back to fully in-person learning as early as October. School Board Chair Pam Thomas told WITN News she expects that vote to pass.

Gov. Roy Cooper announced Thursday that local school boards could choose Plan A for their elementary schools. He previously said the least restrictive plan local school boards could choose was Plan B, a mix of in-person and online learning

The board had previously approved Plan B, to send students back in-person for two days a week and in-person for three days.

Thomas told WITN News she expects the switch to happen in the beginning of October to give the district time to adjust to the switch.

The special school board session is scheduled for Monday, September 21 at 1 p.m.

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