The upcoming school year will look different at Perquimans County Schools.
Monday, Perquimans Board of Education voted to adopt Plan B which includes a combination of in-person learning and remote learning. Parents also have an option to choose an all remote learning instructional experience.
The plan follows the NC Department of Health and Human Services guidelines for reopening schools. The decision was in response to the July 14 announcement by Governor Roy Cooper that schools needed to choose a reopening plan for students to return to school on Aug.17.
The district hopes to provide families an opportunity to do what is best for their students and their households.
“We know that no plan is perfect, but our goal is always to provide our students the best possible instructional experience in person and in remote learning settings. We are working hard to ensure that our schools are as safe as possible under the NCDHHS guidelines. We are looking forward to the return of our teachers, staff and students,” Superintendent Tanya Turner said.
Perquimans County Schools’ Plan B opens school four days per week for face-to-face instruction with one day of remote teaching and learning for students in grades PreK-6. Grades 7-8 would receive two half-days of face-to-face instruction with three days of remote teaching and learning. Grades 9-12 will participate in one day of face-to-face learning with four days of remote teaching and learning.
In terms of remote learning, Turner said the district will also offer a high-quality all remote learning option for families who may not be ready for their child to return in an in-person setting.
Schools will open for in-person instruction under an updated Plan B that requires face coverings for all K-12 students, fewer children in the classroom, measures to ensure social distancing for everyone in the building, and other safety protocols.
Turner said they are working on providing training videos and other informational materials for parents and families, so they can understand the expectations of teaching and learning under Plan B and the all-remote learning option.
Last academic year highlighted the need for reliable internet access for much of Perquimans County. According to the U.S. Census, in 2018, 82.8 percent of all county households had a computer in the home, while 69.3 percent had a broadband internet subscription.
Because of the possibility of a blended school year that includes remote learning, the school district is looking at ways to make internet available to more students.
One option is the Low Wealth Consortium, a group of low-wealth school districts across the state. The group has partnered with the North Carolina Rural Center and Kajeet, a company that provides smartspots – basically Internet hotspots.
The partnership will allow districts like Perquimans Schools to provide hot spots and Wi-Fi access. Local internet provider Inteliport also added many hotspots throughout the county which increased accessibility to Wi-Fi.
Many of these devices are cellular dependent, so finding devices that will work on a cellular carrier within the county is also a priority.
Many of the district’s decisions will be dependent on transportation and the requirements for social distancing, Turner said.
A typical bus can hold about 24 students per the social distancing guidelines – one student per seat. Siblings can sit two to a seat.
School administration is analyzing routes and expects to use a minimum of 26 of the district’s 28 school buses to transport students on in-person days. At least two days will require a second bus run to pick up and deliver students when grades K-8 are at school in-person.
One of the public schools main goals is to provide food security for its students. While dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic during the 2019-20 school year, the United States Department of Agriculture issued a waiver allowing the state’s school district to provide off-campus meal options.
Turner said that the waiver expires Aug. 31 and the district is awaiting word on whether the state will receive another USDA waiver. This will determine the options available for school meals.