Johnston County schools to start year online, K-5 will start classroom learning Sept. 8

The Johnston County school board is meeting to decide how students will return to the classroom for the 2020-2021 school year,

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Sydney Franklin & Jason O. Boyd, WRAL multiplatform producers,
Kirsten Gutierrez, WRAL reporter
SMITHFIELD, N.C. — On Wednesday night, the Johnston County school board voted that students would start the school year online, with a transition to classroom learning for K-5 starting on Sept. 8.

The board met for nearly six hours Wednesday night and voted 7-0 for the motion, which was made by Chairman Todd Sutton.

"I think it was imperative for us to try to get our K-5 students back in the classroom as soon as possible," Sutton told WRAL's Kirsten Gutierrez in an exclusive interview Wednesday night after the board meeting.

The board said students in K-5 will begin classroom learning the day after Labor Day, which is Sept. 8. The board scheduled an Aug. 11 meeting to give an update on the overall school status and to discuss further the plans for classroom learning for grades 6-12. Staff questions would also be addressed along with issues such as transportation needs and other aspects. Much of Wednesday's meeting was held to discuss those same issues.

"We want every student in Johnston County public schools to be back in the classroom in a face-to-face setting," Sutton said. "But I think it was critical to start with K-5 for the simple reason that a lot of these students, especially kindergarten, have never been in a classroom setting. To start virtually and try to learn virtually to read, write and do math, it was just very hard.”

The school year is scheduled to begin Aug. 17.

"I have to say I’m very impressed with the length and breath of discussion the board of education had (Wednesday) and from administrators," said Margie Riedel, a parent and teacher. "I feel like they took a really close look at all the aspects of what would be possible, so I’m just hoping that we will be able to be in the classroom as soon as we can.”

Parents in Johnston County had pushed for in-person classes. A petition was started online asking for the district to go with Plan B, a mix of in-person and online instruction.

The school district had already set up a virtual program for families who were uncomfortable with sending their children back to school. Families would commit to at least one semester of all-online learning, with an evaluation at the end of the semester about retuning to in-person. Students enrolled in the virtual program would still be able to participate in after-school activities and clubs.

Virtual Program students would have live sessions, recorded sessions and independent practice and activities.

The school board considered Plan B, which would be a mix of in-person and online, and Plan C, which would be online only.

There were three possible schedules under Plan B:

  • Plan B 1: Students are on campus one week, then remote learning for two weeks.
  • Plan B 2: One group of students would attend school Monday and Tuesday and another group of students would attend school Thursday and Friday.
  • students as necessary.

K-12 students would have the option to return for in-person classes.

Social distancing protocols would be implemented. Other safety measures would include eating lunch in the classrooms and reducing activities and movement in and out of classrooms.

Students in grades K-12 would have the opportunity to return to the building for classes. Students would also be required to wear face masks. The state will provide five reusable/washable face masks for students and staff.

Under Plan C, all learning would be online with school buildings closed. There would be live instruction and on-demand video resources for instruction and assessments. Grades would be taken for the 2020-2021 year.


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