WINDSOR – Remote learning will continue for Bertie County Schools students through the third quarter of the 2020-21 school year, which began Jan. 6 and runs through March 11.

At their Tuesday evening Jan. 11 meeting, the Bertie County Board of Education unanimously approved a recommendation from Superintendent of Schools Dr. Otis Smallwood to continue with Plan-C, all remote-learning for the next nine weeks of the school calendar.

Danny Perry, BCS Director of Safety and Security, cited results of a parental survey on face-to-face learning. Respondents at only one school (Colerain Elementary) of the eight surveyed in the school district favored a return to the classroom.

Board members, along with the Superintendent expressed their concerns over making a change, leaving Bertie schools with remote learning for close to one full year.

“This COVID stuff has really made havoc,” said Dr. Smallwood. “Taking two steps back and one forward certainly has imperfections, but we have been working through it. We were presented three options and I think we’ve done the very best we can in the students’ and staff’s best interest.”

The five board members pretty much stood in agreement with the top administrator.

“Changing in the middle (of the school year) has challenges, both positive and negative,” said board member Norman Cherry. “I’ve spoken with those who say they understand going back, but I prefer to stay the routine we’re in. We’ll never be 100 percent sure, but we’re more sure based on what we’ve been through.”

“We’re at a critical time here in Bertie County,” said newest board member Reba Cooper Carlton. “Our students need to be face-to-face, but right now, until those (COVID) numbers become favorable instead of going up, and while I think with the vaccines we’ll see a change, maybe that is what will give us our answer.”

“With these strains coming out now that are more deadly than what we’re dealing with today, I feel where we are now is where we should stay because folks are saying they don’t want a child picking it up at school and bringing it home to infect their other children. There is a light at the end of this tunnel,” said Ricky Freeman.

“We have to wait and see,” said Christine Dudley. “Looking at these immunizations and how these red zones are increasing, I think we should stay the same within this time period.”

“It’s a tough decision because our children have been out of the classroom now for almost a year, we still have to ensure that they are being educated,” echoed chairwoman Tarsha Dudley. “The decision we make is crucial, and looking out for our students, employees and the community at large, I think Plan-C is the safest and best place for us right now. We can revisit this in March and hopefully get the children back at some point in time, but now is not that time.”

The school district will make provisions for face-to-face learning for certain groups, including those with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), students enrolled in certain career courses with Martin Community College which require labs, and select seniors who need to ensure they have credits for graduation

The school district also released a short statement via Facebook and Twitter indicating they will reevaluate the situation near the end of the nine weeks and will consider the spread of COVID-19 before deciding how schools will proceed following the third quarter.

The district will be releasing more information about remote learning plans. As for student meals, they will continue to be served via the yellow school buses, as well as their availability for drive-thru meal pick-up.

Plan-C also means winter sports and extracurricular (after-school) activities such as band also remain suspended indefinitely.

Gene Motley can be reached via email at bertienews@ncweeklies.com.

Thadd White is Editor of the Bertie Ledger-Advance and can be reached via email at twhite@ncweeklies.com.