All students in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools district will now be returning to in-person education on March 22, a month earlier than previously decided.
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education unanimously made this decision at a March 4 meeting.
Under this new plan, students will still move to a hybrid learning model. They'll be assigned into a cohort that meets in-person on either Monday/Tuesday or Thursday/Friday.
This comes after the N.C. State Board of Education passed a resolution calling for schools to have the option for in-person learning by the end of March. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services has also released guidance instructing schools to open for in-person instruction.
The N.C. General Assembly failed to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of Senate Bill 37, which would have required school districts to provide the option for in-person instruction. But in his veto, Cooper did say that students should have in-person learning options.
“We won’t get a do-over, so we’re going to go forward,” Deon Temne, vice chairperson of the board, said.
Around 600 vaccine appointments have already been made available to CHCCS employees between Feb. 26 and March 5. The district gave priority for vaccines based on exposure to students, age and other risk factors.
A survey sent out by the district found that 950 staff members were interested in, or had already received, the COVID-19 vaccine. There are over 1,900 staff members in the district.
“With some of our events, we had lower numbers than we anticipated,” Superintendent Nyah Hamlett said.
With the timing of the vaccines, some staff will be receiving their second dose of the vaccine while in-person classes are taking place. According to the NCDHHS, any potential side effects are more common after the second dose.
“We will work through coverage for teachers and staff who are feeling ill after the second dose,” Hamlett said.
In addition, the board is looking to be as fully in-person as possible next fall with the possibility of establishing a virtual learning academy for students who don’t feel comfortable returning to school.
The board voted to move forward with the development of an implementation plan and requesting a new school number for the virtual learning academy.
The virtual academy would cost $405,000 and include a full time principal, counselor and part time social worker. It would service grades nine through 12 and give students the option to engage in flexible learning environments.
A survey found that 107 students expressed interest in the program.
“There was so much going out, and there was somewhat of a confusion between what we were hearing — some parents thought this was correlated with the reopening period as well,” Quincy Williams, executive director of secondary schools and special programs, said. “We did realize the timing of the survey when it went out could have probably created some confusion.”
The board is also looking into different options for additional learning reinforcement to close achievement gaps.
“We’re looking at extended day, extended week and extended year opportunities,” Hamlett said.
The superintendent’s proposed budget includes the possibility of a $445,000 Saturday academy for students in kindergarten through fifth grade in the 2021-22 school year.
“I like the idea of thinking about how we help students have additional recovery time,” board member Rani Dasi said. “I do have some concerns about Saturday school. We’ve heard pretty strong feedback from a lot of our community members, particularly our Jewish friends, about the impact of Saturday school on their communities.”
With the return to in-person school, the board was also set to discuss moving to a hybrid meeting format. Discussion on this issue has been pushed to the next board meeting on March 18.