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GCS Task Forces Plan for School Re-openings

Guilford County Schools (GCS) has launched two task forces to assist the district in planning how to reopen schools in August in the midst of a global pandemic. The task forces include teachers, principals, classified personnel, parents and community members.

First, the district is teaming up with four other large, urban school districts in the state to share ideas and potential options for re-opening schools in August. In addition to GCS, members include Cumberland County Schools, Durham Public Schools, Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) and Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools.

Each district appointed six members to the task force, which is led by Deena Hayes, chairperson of the Guilford County Board of Education and Keith Sutton, chairperson of the Wake County Board of Education. Members include school board leadership, superintendents, principals, teacher and parent association representatives, and a member of each county’s state legislative delegation.

The five districts collectively represent 24% of the state’s public-school students, 57% of whom are of color and 51% of whom live in poverty. Task force member districts also serve more than 369,700 students and employ 47,700 staff members.

Secondly, GCS has formed a local task force consisting of more than 150 members county-wide who are developing recommendations and guidelines regarding health-screening protocols, social distancing in classrooms, schools, office buildings and school buses, student and employee health and wellness, academics and remote learning, child nutrition, student support services, technology, facilities, school safety, communications and community relations.

Both task forces began meeting virtually in June. The task forces are developing recommendations for each of the three scenarios announced June 11 by Governor Roy Cooper, in the state’s guidance for public school re-openings: Lighting Our Way Forward. GCS and other North Carolina public school districts also must follow the state’s public health guidance for schools: NC COVID-19.

Under the state recommendations and requirements, one of three reopening plans will be put in place:

  • Plan A: Minimal Social Distancing
  • Plan B: Moderate Social Distancing
  • Plan C: Remote Learning Only

Governor Cooper is expected to announce this week which plan the state will follow when schools resume on August 17, as mandated by a new state law adopted by the North Carolina General Assembly before they adjourned for the summer last week.

Local school districts may follow a more restrictive plan than what the state recommends but cannot use a less restrictive one.

With confirmed cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations continuing to rise across North Carolina and in Guilford County, GCS is focusing most of its attention on the state’s “Plan B,” which includes moderate social distancing and a mix of in-person and remote learning.

If public health guidelines require moderate social distancing guidelines, GCS will be unable to transport or serve all children at the same time or in the same way via in-person, in-classroom instruction.

“Our goal is to serve as many students as possible for the greatest amount of time possible while also keeping students, faculty, staff, parents and our community healthy and safe,” said Sharon L. Contreras, superintendent.

District officials will discuss the preliminary task force recommendations at a special work session next week. The work session begins at 6 p.m. on July 9 and will be held virtually. Parents may view it on GCSTV or the district’s YouTube channel.