Wake County Schools

WCPSS prepares families for in-classroom learning

A week before some students return to the classroom after months of remote learning, teachers and administrators demonstrated the steps they were taking to make sure that is safe.

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Kasey Cunningham, Brett Knese
Bryan Mims, WRAL reporters
RALEIGH, N.C. — One week before some Wake County students return to classrooms after months of remote learning, teachers and administrators demonstrated the steps they are taking to make sure school is safe.

At A.B. Combs Elementary School in Raleigh, the mascot, a gator, is represented in gator prints on the ground, to show students how far apart they should be.

Before entering any Wake County school building, every student, employee and visitor will answer questions about symptoms and recent contacts and will have their temperature taken, every day.

Even as case counts rise across the state, Wake County School Board Chairman Keith Sutton said he's not having doubts about re-opening.

"We are aware of the numbers. We are keeping watch and monitoring the trends and the health data that's coming in, and we are prepared if necessary to pivot and respond accordingly," Sutton said.

If Gov. Roy Cooper and other state health officials advise against in-person classes, the district can quickly switch back to all online instruction.

"I'm extremely confident that schools are safe," Sutton said. "We have the PPE in place, we have sanitizer, cleaning solutions, all that's needed to keep classrooms and the buildings safe."

Xavier Norman, a second grader, is ready, but he knows school will be a little bit different this year.

"I'm looking forward to staying with my friends but social distancing," he said.

His mom, Tiffany Norman, is a first-grade teacher.

She says keeping that distance will be an adjustment for Xavier and his classmates.

"I think the way the classroom looks – I think that'll be the biggest change, just noticing that the desks are so far apart."

She knows it will be hard to enforce safety measures with excited youngsters.

"They're going to be so excited. They're going to be seeing all their friends, they're going to be seeing their teacher full-screen instead of in a tiny little box, but like with everything, you practice and you model," she said.

Families and students will also have to sign off an acknowledgement form to agree to follow health guidelines such as daily symptom screening, wearing face masks, washing hands frequently and maintaining social distance.

Administrators have also asked parents to prepare students for the new school day, helping them get used to masks before coming back to school. Parents should also have thermometers and check their child's temperature before every school day.

Five masks will be provided for each student, but WCPSS asks that students come prepared with their own, plus extras.

About half of A. B. Combs' 700 students will continue with online learning in the Virtual Academy. The other half will return to the classroom starting Monday, in three groups.

The schedule for elementary students is as follows:

  • Cohort 1 begins in-person learning on Oct. 26
  • Cohort 2 begins in-person learning on Nov. 2
  • Cohort 3 begins in-person learning on Nov. 9

They will rotate – one week in class, two weeks at home. But come Nov. 16, the plan is for all students in grades Pre-K through 3 to be in school every day.

Middle school students will return to school on a rotating basis two weeks later, on Nov. 9.

Fourth and fifth graders begin a rotation on Nov. 16. High school students will stay in all-remote learning for the remainder of the semester.

The school system has also set the window to register for its Virtual Academy for the spring semester. Middle and high school registration will be Oct. 21-28. Elementary school registration will be Dec. 2-9.