The Swain County Board of Education met Wednesday night to discuss plans for the Spring Semester and allowing virtual students to return to the classroom.
Students in Swain County Elementary have been attending school under Plan B, with students in Kindergarten through 5th grade attending school four days a week, with Wednesday being used as a virtual day to give schools the opportunity to clean and disinfect.
With interest from families who have children in virtual classes to have their children return for face to face instruction, the Swain County Board of Education voted to allow virtual students to return after the Winter Break and will return to an A/B schedule for all students to be able to accommodate the increase in student population.
The Board made the decision altering hearing an update regarding community spread in Swain Counties, which includes two positive staff members in Swain County Schools, an outbreak at a local church, an outbreak at the Swain County Sheriff’s Office, and an outbreak with the EBCI Detention Facility. As of the meeting, Swain County Health Department reported 54 active positive cases throughout the county. Since March, Swain County has reported 65 positive cases in children ages birth to 17 years old, the third-highest of any age group. The county has also seen 12 individuals hospitalized since March.
President Donald Trump’s recommendations to states call for the closing of schools, stating “School operations can accelerate the spread of the coronavirus. Governors of states with evidence of community transmission should close schools in affected and surrounding areas. Governors should close schools in communities that are near areas of community transmission, even if those areas are in neighboring states. In addition, state and local officials should close schools where coronavirus has been identified in the population associated with the school.”
A survey sent to parents shows that across the district, parents of 147 elementary students wanted their children to move from virtual learning to in-person learning, 48 parents planned to keep their elementary students virtual, and 37 elementary parents were still undecided. Taking all yes and maybe students back for in-person instruction for elementary, middle, and high school, the enrollment for Swain County Schools would increase by 28 percent.
Swain County Superintendent said that bringing all students back for face to face instruction, social distancing would be impossible in the classroom as well as the required social distancing requirements for school buses and transportation.
Swain County Middle School and Swain County High School will remain in Plan B with alternating A/B days for school.
The board voted to change the plan for elementary students. The options considered by the board would be to leave the current enrollment as is, with elementary school students attending school four days a week, but not allow virtual students to return for face to face instruction to be able to meet social distancing guidelines or to allow students wanting to return for face to face instead of virtual to do so, but to accommodate the increased student population, have students attend school on alternative A/B days for elementary school.
Members of the Swain County Board of Education acknowledged that face to face instruction was the most beneficial for students and in order to offer face to face for the maximum amount of students, the board voted to return to an A/B rotating day schedule.