Back-to-School

Courtesy Photos, Design by E.J. Sellers

Military families got their first look at plans to reopen installation schools Monday, July 6, while Onslow County Schools (OCS) further discussed their reopening plan during a press conference Monday, July 13.

A statement from Tom Brady, Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) director, was posted on the DoDEA Facebook page. While no official decision has been made, full-time face-to-face education is Brady’s hope moving forward.

“While we responded to the closures (from COVID-19) quickly in providing continuity through digital learning, we have always believed that instruction in the classroom is the optimal learning environment for most of our military-connected students,” Brady’s statement read. “Restoring teaching and learning to the familiar environments of our classrooms, provides students with stability and continuity. Face-to-face instruction and the routines of school add significantly to success and growth for all students.”

Brady’s statement also included a five-part approach to moving forward. He addressed the potential for virtual learning, the importance of following Center for Disease Control and Department of Defense health guidelines, and an emphasis on mitigations such as face masks and social distancing.

“We are looking at a number of additional topics, including: daily screening and protocols should a student or employee present as sick; social distancing and sanitation; addressing the learning gaps of students; transportation; school lunches; student services; staffing, scheduling and vulnerable populations; student activities and athletics; and protocols if a resurgence were to occur in any of our communities,” Brady said. “Additional details are still in development and I will provide details on our opening plans by mid-July 2020.”

For Brady’s full statement on DoDEA Schools, visit https://www.dodea.edu/return-to-school.cfm.

At an OCS board meeting Monday, July 13, board members decided to recess and await further guidance from Gov. Roy Cooper and the state before making a concrete plan of action. Tuesday afternoon, Cooper and state leaders held a press conference, deciding on a plan of action.

Cooper announced that schools should plan to enact their “Plan B,” an approach aimed at keeping schools at 50 percent occupancy while allowing for virtual learning. Per the plan, students would be broken into cohorts, with half of students learning in person and the other half learning virtually, with the two groups rotating.

Two variations of the plan are currently under consideration in Onslow County. “Option 1” would rotate kids twice a week, with the first cohort learning in person Monday and Tuesday and the second cohort learning in person Thursday and Friday. Wednesday would be a fully remote day and used by school staff to clean, plan and tutor. “Option 2” would rotate cohorts weekly.

For both options, families are assigned to the same cohort. Child nutrition hubs would remain open for remote learners as well. Full-time virtual schooling would still be available for parents seeking that medium of education for their children as well.

As they await guidance from the state, OCS is asking the community for feed- back until 3 p.m. Thursday, July 16. To provide your perspective on which option you prefer, visit https://www.onslow.k12.nc.us.