K-5 can go to Plan A; FHS schedule changes

South Macon Elementary School photo by Vickie Carpenter

After several weeks of stable COVID-19 trends and continued low virus spread in school settings, Gov. Roy Cooper announced last week that beginning on Oct. 5, North Carolina public school districts and charter schools can choose to implement Plan A for elementary schools (grades K-5).

 Plan A will continue to include important safety measures like face coverings for all students, teachers and staff, social distancing, and symptom screening, but does not require schools to reduce the number of children in the classroom. 

School districts will continue to have flexibility to select Plan A, B or C based on their unique needs. In addition, districts should still provide an option for families to select all remote learning for their students. 

Macon County Schools Superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin said that the Macon County Board of Education will hear a proposal for Plan A next week during the September board meeting. Dr. Baldwin said the Plan A proposal will have elementary schools kids in Macon County attending school Monday-Thursday at full capacity, with Friday still being a remote learning day. Dr. Baldwin said that while the school board will be considering Plan A – they will also still be considering Plan B and Plan C – to determine which track is best for students. The school board meets regularly the fourth Monday of the month.

The decision to allow elementary schools to return at full capacity was made based on data trends in the state for schools who have returned to in-person instruction. 

Dr. Mandy Cohen, North Carolina Secretary of Health and Human Services,  explained that as schools have opened, the current science shows that younger children are less likely to become infected, have symptoms, experience severe disease or spread the virus. 

“It’s great news today that we are a step closer to providing the option of in-person learning to families who want their children to return to school,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson. “While the Governor, the State Board of Education, and I have our differences, I join with them today to encourage local school board members to take advantage of this change and open all schools safely. I thank the many parents and teachers across North Carolina who have been vocal advocates on this important issue.”

While the Board of Education considers a transition to Plan A for elementary school students, Franklin High School has announced  that all FHS students will be transitioning to two days per week for each grade level beginning Sept. 28. The schedule for students at FHS will be:

– Monday/Wednesday – 9th Grade and 11th Grade

– Tuesday/Thursday – 10th Grade and 12th Grade

Friday – Remote learning for all grades, although extra help is available. Students can email their teacher to make an appointment to come in. 

Cases minimal in Macon County Schools

On Wednesday, Sept. 16, a positive case of COVID-19 was confirmed at Franklin High School.  On Friday, Sept. 18, a positive case of COVID-19 was confirmed at Macon Middle School, Mountain View Intermediate School and South Macon Elementary School. These individuals are currently under quarantine. Contact tracing is underway through the Macon County Health Department. Any student or staff member identified through the contact tracing will be notified. 

Nantahala School reports that no additional cases of COVID-19 have been reported during their remote learning week. The decision was made to close the school for in-person learning due to a positive case announced on Sept. 11. Nantahala School returned to its previous status of face-to-face learning on Monday, Sept. 21. Students that have been part of the Nantahala Virtual Learning Academy will continue to participate in that teaching and learning option.

Brittney Lofthouse contributed to this article.