Wake County Schools

Wake schools gives teachers, staff confidential ways to report coronavirus worries

Posted November 6, 2020 10:00 a.m. EST
Updated November 6, 2020 6:29 p.m. EST

— As Wake County public schools prepare to welcome back middle school students next week, administrators are asking teachers and staff to help police and enforce the safety protocols that allow for that to happen.

In a conversation with the media Friday morning, Superintendent Cathy Moore outlined three ways the district is creating a "culture of compliance."

The district requires masks for all in school buildings, and any student who comes to school regularly without one or who can't otherwise comply will be asked to return to remote learning, the district has said.

With more students – approximately 6,000 across the county-wide district – returning to in-person learning on Monday, more teachers and staff face the prospect of enforcing those rules. The school system has established a three-prong system to support them, Moore said.

All staff have the option to fill out a survey every day to alert their principal to any concerns about coronavirus in the classroom. Staff also have the option to report concerns using an app that allows them to remain confidential.

Members of the district leadership team – area superintendents and others – will make regular visits to schools and classrooms to make sure best practices in face coverings, hand washing and social distancing are in place.

"There is a high level of anxiety, but also high level of commitment," Moore said, "towards the common end of reopening schools safely."

Wake Forest Middle School Principal Chris Bradford, who hosted the news conference outside his school and then offered a tour, said his staff was excited for the return of student energy.

“We are excited about Monday," he said.

About 1,200 students attend the school. Bradford expects to see 200 of them on Monday, then groups of about 150 each in each of the next two weeks. He expects about 4 students in the smallest of classes and up to 14 per room in core classes. Pre-pandemic, those classes could accommodate up to 32 students, he said.

Students will eat lunch in the cafeteria – their only time to take off their masks – with space between them and all facing in the same direction, Bradford said. Hallways will be one-way and dismissal times staggered to reduce the contact students have with each other.

"When our students leave their classrooms, they will make right hand turns only," Bradford said. "When they get to the end of the hallway, they will loop back around. We have created the divider here on the ground which will also ensure they know they’re on the right side of the road.”

Michelle Rothfeld, who has taught at the school for more than 20 years, will teach two in-person classed and two virtual classes.

“I can not tell you how excited we are as a school that kids are going to be back in the building,” she said. "Having students in the classroom, you can actually physically see them and that makes the biggest difference.”

The staggered return of cohorts of middle school students comes two weeks after elementary students got back to the classroom. School board Chairman Keith Sutton said he is pleased with how the return is going, despite about a dozen reports of cases of the coronavirus linked to schools during those two weeks.

In another week, on Nov. 16, elementary schools that had seen students in rotation are scheduled to go back to full capacity. Moore estimated about 20 students per classroom. The plan is for high school students to return, in rotation to start, when the second semester begins after the holidays.

Sutton asked parents to prepare their children to return by modeling mask wearing, hand washing and keeping their distance from others.

Both Sutton and Moore allowed that "school will look different," and that it will take time for students, teachers, staff and families to adapt.

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