Wake County Schools

Wake schools will welcome 8,000 back to classrooms on Monday

Posted October 23, 2020 8:47 a.m. EDT
Updated October 23, 2020 6:21 p.m. EDT

— When 8,000 elementary students return to in-person learning in Wake County on Monday, schools will look very different.

At Horton’s Creek Elementary School in west Cary and other schools in the district, there will be health screenings at the door, spaced out desks, required masks and social distancing reminders everywhere.

Wake County Superintendent Cathy Moore said schools will respond to COVID-19 cases as they arise by shutting down the affected portion of the building and, if needed, using contact tracing to determine spread.

She also explained how staff will deal with students who refuse to wear a mask.

"There will be conversations with the student and with the family, and there will be attempts to understand what is going on, but ultimately, a student who refuses to wear a mask in the building or on the school grounds would likely be assigned to remote learning," Moore said.

Masks are important to make everyone feel safe, Moore said, adding kids should know that "wearing a mask is the way we show our friends, our staff and their teachers we care about them."

"We are happy to be back in school and want to stay there," she said.

On Friday morning, education officials shared steps parents are urged to take to make sure that children stay safe as they head back to school.

The district is advising parents to:

  • Make sure your child has extra face masks, in case one breaks
  • Take your child's temperature before sending them to school
  • Bring your WCPSS-issued to device back to the classroom
  • If you ride the bus, complete a bus rider form

"We are excited, but at the same time we are anxious," said Keith Sutton, chair of the Wake County Board of Education. "We are confident that we are ready, that schools are safe, that we can do this."

While cases are spiking in North Carolina and across the U.S., Moore said cases are not spiking locally, and the district believes it is safe to welcome students back.

Classrooms will be no more than one-third full, she said. Many students have opted to do online learning for the entire semester, according to Moore.

Moore also talked about the importance of teachers.

“We can’t do this without our teachers, so we need to build their confidence and understanding of what it looks like," Moore said. "They need to be a part of that process and let us know when things aren’t working.”

Sandy Chambers, principal at Horton’s Creek Elementary, is thrilled to see students again,

"I am really excited to see our kids, and I think they will be very excited to see us," she said.

Elementary school students will return in phases before resuming daily, in-person classes on Nov. 16. Middle school students will return to school on Nov. 9 on a rotating basis. High schoolers will remain remote for the fall semester.

Face coverings are required for all adults and students in kindergarten through 12th grade on school property and buses. The school district has determined that children will be able to use the playground equipment safely, if they wash their hands before.

"Every movement has been thought out to detail," Sutton said.

The board asked that parents continue to communicate with the school district and stay flexible students come are back in the classroom.

"Let us know what you're hearing and what you're seeing," Sutton said to parents.

If parents are not comfortable sending their child back to school and have not yet signed up for the Virtual Academy, they still can do so.

The Virtual Academy can provide core classes online for students as an option for those at higher risk for coronavirus infection or for students whose parents don't feel comfortable sending them back to school during the pandemic. Students in the Virtual Academy won't have to come back into the classroom or adhere to the district's plans for reopening.

About half of all Wake County Public School students are in virtual learning, according to Moore.

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