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Board Approves Phased Approach to Return GCS Students to Classrooms


Sept. 24, 2020 Assuming continued positive public health trends in the county, GCS students in elementary and middle school will be returning to classrooms in October, with high school students following in January, the Guilford County Board of Education decided Thursday.

The school board approved a recommendation from Superintendent Sharon L. Contreras, which brings back pre-K-5 students five days a week, with grades pre-K-2 returning Oct. 20 and grades 3-5 returning Oct. 26. Students at the district’s four public separate schools – Gateway Education Center, Haynes-Inman Education Center, Herbin-Metz Education Center and Christine Greene Education Center – will also return five days a week.

“We are taking a phased approach to reopening, given our limited fiscal and human resources to open fully, bringing back our youngest and most vulnerable students first, because we know they have the greatest need for face-to-face learning and support,” says Contreras.

Elementary schools will follow guidance under the state’s Plan B, which means using all available building spaces to allow for social distancing. Two schools – Morehead Elementary and Rankin Elementary – will temporarily house their fifth graders at other sites.

Three schools that serve both elementary and middle grades – The Academy at Lincoln, Allen Jay Prep and Johnson Street Global Studies – will follow the elementary guidance and return to school five days per week. Buildings will undergo deep cleaning every Friday evening.

At the middle school level, students will return for two days of in-person instruction per week, beginning with sixth graders on Oct. 20 and seventh and eighth graders on Oct. 26. Half of the middle school students will attend Mondays and Tuesdays, and the other half on Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays would be reserved for remote instruction to allow for deep cleaning of the buildings between student groups, as well as on Friday evenings.

High school students will follow the same guidelines when they return on Jan. 20, 2021. However, specific groups of middle and high school students, such as students who are homeless, students in foster care, students with disabilities who are served in self-contained classrooms, students in the first years of English language acquisition and students with multiple risk factors will be allowed to return to classrooms on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, beginning on Oct. 20.  

Bell schedules will be adjusted slightly at all three levels to allow time for bus travel. The elementary school day will be from 7:35 a.m. to 2:05 p.m.; the middle school day will be from 8:35 a.m. to 3:25 p.m.; and the high school day will be from 9:35 a.m. to 4:25 p.m.

Families who are interested in the district’s virtual schools may register until Friday, Oct. 2, at 5 p.m., using the website

GCS’ plan to reopen schools depends on whether public health indicators regarding community spread are trending in the right direction, according to district officials. The school board approved metrics at Thursday’s meeting that were developed in partnership with the Guilford County Public Health Department.

No one measure supersedes another, and the overall trend lines are more important than specific data points, according to public health officials. The metrics include the number of new cases daily per 100,000 persons in Guilford County, the number of new cases within the last 14 days per 100,000 persons in Guilford County, the daily positivity rate in Guilford County as compared to the total number of tests taken and compliance with public health measures in schools by students and staff. The secondary indicators include a downward, 14-day trend in hospitalization rates for COVID-19 in Guilford County and the community’s intensive care unit.

For more information on reopening schools, visit Information available on the reopening website includes everything parents and staff need to know, from face covering requirements and daily health screenings to procedures for entering and exiting school buildings, preparing socially distanced classrooms and more.