Normal went out the window for Harnett County students nearly a year ago.
Twelve months after the COVID-19 pandemic turned a typical school day upside down, at least one group of students in the county are returning to a normal routine soon.
The Harnett County Schools Board of Education on Monday voted to reopen elementary school campuses for a traditional five-day in-person instruction week starting March 22.
“We have looked at what’s the quickest way within the guidelines of the governor’s executive order and the Department of Health and Human Services to get our students back onto a five-day schedule,” HCS Superintendent Aaron Fleming said. “As of right now, we can get back to five-day with our K-5 students.”
Since the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, HCS brought students back to class in varying degrees, featuring combinations of remote and in-person learning for different age groups in accordance with state guidelines. Elementary students came closest to a normal schedule with a four-day in-person instruction week, using Wednesdays as a teacher work/remote day.
Middle and high school students stayed on their current A/B cohort schedule as Gov. Roy Cooper has yet to modify social distancing guidelines restricting the number of people inside a classroom. Once middle and high schools are allowed to return to a five-day in-person week, the board agreed to immediately start the process of prepping campuses for reopening within two weeks. Middle schools will reopen first followed by high schools.
“The superintendent may start five-day instruction for grades 6-8 within 10 school days of such authorization,” Board Chairman Eddie Jaggers said as part of his motion to the board. “The superintendent may start five-day instruction for 9-12 within five days after the 6-8 start. Students may remain in remote learning for the remainder of the year if they so prefer.”
HCS voted to remove remote learning days on March 26 and May 7 from the calendar. Harnett Health and the county health department recently expanded the COVID-19 vaccine roll out to include teachers and other education personnel. HCS previously planned to return elementary school students to five days on March 15, but delayed it due to a scheduled vaccination day and a teacher work day that week.
“I think we need to start preparing for getting K-12 back five days a week,” said Jaggers. “I’d just like to see if we’re able to move forward putting 6-12 back in the building five days that it doesn’t take 20 days to it.”
Fleming recommended scheduling a remote learning day after staff received their second vaccination shot on March 17 due to fears some may experience side effects. Board members balked at the idea and elected to keep the current schedule.
Eliot Duke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-230-2038.