How schools will reopen in Clay County was the main topic on the minds of school board members when the Clay County Board of Education met Thursday, July 30. Many staff and students’ families watched the meeting online. Students will attend in-person two days a week and will alternate to keep classroom size within guidelines. Parents also have a remote learning option.
Clay School Superintendent Dale Cole explained how public schools meet many student needs besides academics.
"We work hard with our community partners every day to meet the needs of all students so that they are ready to learn," he said. "We use Maslow’s research to guide this work. Every child has a different situation at home. However, public schools are where students need to be if possible so that we can meet all of their needs, not just academics. When a child is hungry, he cannot function until his needs are met. When a child does not have clothes on a cold day, they are not focused on learning algebra or how to read. We start by ensuring their physiological needs are met to the best of our ability and work our way up through the chart. As communities, if we are successful meeting these needs, hopefully every child can reach the level of 'self-actualization.' That is what is best for our students, our families, our communities, our state and our country.” He said the plan was written with the maximum amount of face-to-face time allowable by Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order.
While the board approved school reopening recommendations for the Monday, Aug. 17 date, the plan could change to become fully remote if the county or a school reaches 5 percent positive COVID-19 tests. Here is the plan, as approved by the board.
CCS Preschool will operate at full capacity five days a week. Hayesville Primary School, Hayesville Elementary School and Hayesville Middle School will operate on an A/B schedule, which allows students to be taught in person on a regular schedule for two days each week. Any parent may choose remote learning at home for their own children; however, parents who select remote from day 1 will be locked into this choice for at least the first five weeks of school.
While at school, students' groups will be kept to 12 students or less; therefore, if a student tests positive, the impact should be to less than 12 students. Some would attend every Monday and Tuesday, while others would attend in person Thursday and Friday. Every Wednesday will be a virtual learning day for all students so the buildings may be thoroughly cleaned in between different groups. Students will remain in the same classroom and teachers will rotate to them. Children from the same household will attend school the same days.
Hayesville High School’s approved plan is an AAVBB schedule. HHS students who wish to return to face to face must notify the principal by Friday, Sept. 11. Any student may move to remote from face to face at any time by notifying the principal in advance. To devise the plan, community members and staff were surveyed and given four options. Of those surveyed, 230 parents responded with 43.9 percent choosing option 4, the two-cohort model, which allowed them to change classes during the day. Option 1 for fully remote learning was chosen by 33 percent of parents. HHS staff voted, with 45 percent choosing option 1 and 30 percent choosing option 4.
"Everyone will be wearing masks at all times except when exercising strenuously or with a documented medical exemption approved by the governor’s executive order," Cole read from the opening plan. All required state health protocols will be followed, including daily temperature checks for all staff and students as well as enhanced cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing protocols.
Board of education member, Reba Beck, said, “This is an unbelievable decision to have to make. It is unbelievable what we are asking teachers to do and what children are expected to do. This is near impossible, yet we have teachers who will make it happen. This decision is not made easily. It is made with a great deal of prayerful consideration and concern for what the teachers, children and parents are going to face.”
Cole agreed, “The teachers are superheroes. People get into teaching because they love children and they get their positivity out of helping children. I know our teachers are going to do whatever it takes. We all make mistakes, but all we can do is learn from them and move on. I hope the community will show us some grace. All we can do is have patience and grace with each other and do the best we can for our kids.”
Other guidelines include:
• Outside mask breaks throughout the day.
• Students will be seated at least six feet apart in classrooms,
• Students will not be allowed to congregate together in groups without social distancing.
• All staff and students will be issued five approved masks, but they will also be allowed to wear their own masks if they meet state requirements to cover both the mouth and nose.
• Everyone will be responsible for washing their own masks.
Questions about the reopening plan should be directed to the school principal for the appropriate school. The Pre-K contact is Lisa Burch at: firstname.lastname@example.org; Hayesville Primary, K-2, is Lindsey Hodnett: email@example.com; Hayesville Elementary, grades 3-5, is Melissa Godfrey: firstname.lastname@example.org; Hayesville Middle, grades 6-8, is Tommy Hollingsworth: email@example.com and Hayesville High, grades 9-12, is Jim Saltz: firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the start of the meeting, Cole expressed how pleased he was with the Hayesville High School graduation ceremony held the week prior. He also thanked HHS staff and community organizations who helped make it possible.
Another important policy change was the approval to discontinue the Clay County Schools staff daycare after the 20-21 school year. Board member Robbie Caldwell, who joined the meeting remotely, recused himself from voting due to his affiliation with a state childcare agency.
In addition, the board approved or heard about other updates. These include:
• Driver’s education policy update for Clay County home-school students. Cole said home-schooled students will pay the same $65 fee enrolled students pay, per state requirements.
• School technology fee will have two options. Option No. 1 requires no fee, but families are responsible for damages. If not paid, students will not walk at graduation. Option No. 2 has parents pay a $30 fee for damage insurance in case the device is broken.
• Maintenance and facility update. Cole said the new primary school is expected to be ready by the end of September or beginning of October.
• Severe & Profound EC Classroom for HMS and HHS had to be relocated which also required moving Becky Stewart, the director of accountability.
• Water bottle filling stations will replace all water fountains in the schools. All staff and students will receive water bottles with the school logo.
• Hand sanitizer, wipes and disinfectant are being stockpiled.
• Cole is exploring the purchase of hydrostatic disinfection devices for disinfecting.
• Custodians’ schedules are being adjusted for maximum classroom cleaning.
• Walk-through temperature devices will be installed at each school.
• Each school will have a fully equipped nurse’s station.
• The bus access road and parking lot near the bus garage are being repaired.
• Landscaping around campus to clean up overgrown shrubs and trees.
Director of Federal Programs, Angel Owens, said 19 participants joined a remote meeting of the federal program stakeholders. They reviewed the parent-school compacts, the plans for using funding, and the parent family policies for the district. Some of the goals include student growth in reading and language arts, student growth in math and increase family engagement. The board approved grant requests she asked to write for these plans.
Director of Finance, Shelley Hollingsworth, requested the use of $33,600 lottery funds to replace the leaking Hayesville Middle School gym roof. Approximately $112,000 balance will remain in lottery funds for the rest of the year. Lottery funds may only be used for instructional facility maintenance and repair.