Board of Education approves expansion of in-person learning at PCHS, PCMS

Students at Polk County High School will be able to attend school for four days per week, with more students allowed in classes at Polk County Middle School, under a new model approved Thursday by the Polk County Board of Education.

At a specially called meeting, the board approved moving the district to a hybrid of North Carolina’s Plan A as permitted by the recent passing of North Carolina Senate Bill 220. Under Plan A, students in grades 6-12 can return to in-person learning for additional days each week and social distancing of six feet in classrooms is recommended, but not required, which will allow more students to attend classes in person each day.

Polk County Middle will shift to the new approach on March 22, with Polk County High School moving to the hybrid plan on March 29. Because a remote learning option must be provided to students and families, Wednesdays at both schools will still be reserved for remote instruction.

Other requirements for limiting the spread of COVID-19 – the wearing of face coverings, symptom screenings, tracing, quarantining and cleaning protocols – do not change under Plan A. Students will still be required to wear masks and be screened daily before entering the school building.

Districts making this change must submit their plan to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and share COVID-19 data with the ABC Science Collaborative, which has been providing support to schools and communities on school reopening.

At Thursday’s meeting, Superintendent Aaron Greene made a presentation to the board that included a discussion of what a change to Plan A for middle and high school students would entail. He informed members the move would not change a great deal at Polk Middle, but would be a significant change in Polk High operations.

Greene provided current COVID information and local health guidance, stakeholder input from staff and families and likely impacts resulting from a change. Members discussed the need to move students back to in-person learning while weighing safety and health risks.

At the end of the discussion, the board voted unanimously to approve the administrative recommendation of moving Polk Middle and Polk High to Plan A. More specific information will be provided to families in the coming days.

The board also approved a Head Start “Cost of Living” adjustment that will assist the district in securing funds to combat rising personnel costs.

The board’s next regularly scheduled meeting has been moved to April 19 at 6:30 p.m.

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