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Cumberland County Schools has presented three options for how to handle reopening schools this fall based on how the impacts of COVID-19 are being felt in the community.

At a specially-called board meeting Thursday morning, Cumberland County Schools approved the three options for how the district will go forward with reopening classes this year, as coronavirus concerns linger across the county. The board approved a blended plan for reopening, with an 8-1 vote, that would include some in-person learning, as well as some remote learning.

The plan was contingent on state guidelines, and the development of coronavirus (COVID-19) impacts on Cumberland County.

By and large, the district decided that if blended instruction was required this year, students would rotate in-person learning with remote learning. And within that plan, two options were presented for that blended learning, with one being one week in-person and one week remote; with the second option being three rotating groups with each group doing one week on of in-person learning followed by two weeks of remote learning.

The Cumberland County Schools board was presented with the three over-arching reopening plans by Melody Chalmers McClain, Asst. Superintendent, District Transformation & Strategic Initiatives. Chalmers said the hope was that the work group that put the plans together would end up ensuring “all students have equitable access to a safe, rigorous learning environment to reach their maximum potential.” The scenarios take into account various levels of COVID-19 impacts on the community.

The three scenarios broadly were as follows:

  • Plan A: Implemented based upon COVID-19 metrics stabilizing; Would have all students in schools at the same time; Traditional instruction would be implemented with preparation for “blended learning” available.
  • Plan B: Implemented if COVID-19 metrics worsen; Would limit capacity in schools to 50 percent at a given time; Blended instruction would be implemented with preparation to return to traditional OR move to full remote instruction.
  • Plan C: Implemented if COVID-19 metrics “worsen enough to suspend in-person instruction;” School facilities would be closed; Remote instruction plan would be implemented.

Under Plan A, parents would still have the option to have their children attend the new “CCS Virtual Academy” if they did not feel safe returning their children to schools in person. That would essentially become the child’s “choice school” for the year. Also under Plan A, the district would have symptom screening and temperature checks in place, as well as social-distance recommendations.

On the other end of the spectrum, Plan C reopening would be similar to what students and families experienced during the last several months. Classes would be completely remote, and meals would be available at pick-up sites.

Under Plan B, many flexible measures would have to be in place. Schools would not be able to have more than 50 percent of all students and staff in the building, and bus capacity would be reduced to 24 students maximum. That would require a mixture of some students doing in-person learning, with others remote. The district is recommending alternating weeks to make that happen, so all students would get half time remote and half-time in person learning.

In the blended approach, parents would be able to choose from three options for their children: First, they could choose to have their students in the rotating schedule. Second, they could choose a full remote option that would revert to in-person learning at your assigned school when the pandemic subsides. Lastly, they could choose to enroll in the CCS Virtual Academy, which they would stay in for the school year, regardless of the pandemic situation. All students would be provided devices in any of those scenarios.

“Remote learning will have a definite timeline where teacher sessions will occur,” Dr. Stacey Wilson-Normal, Chief Academic Officer said. “These sessions would happen during normal school hours.”

Another big concern raised under the blended or remote plans was child care for teachers and staff, as well as parents who may be back at work.

“We are investigating some options for child care for our staff members in CCS and partnering with community organizations on services they may be providing,” Chalmers McClain said during the meeting. “We don’t have a definitive answer, but we have heard very clearly that it is a concern of staff.”

Also in the meeting, the board approved a last-minute plan to delay the start of the year-round schools and switch their calendar to match traditional schools. (Read more here.)

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Brandon Plotnick is a former sports journalist, now living in the digital space with interests all over the musical and pop culture map.