School board votes to return to Plan ‘A’ for Grades K- 5 Oct. 5

Macon County School Board photo by Vickie Carpenter

Diane Peltz – Contributing Writer

The Macon County School Board, approved by a 5-0 vote, for South Macon Elementary School, East Franklin Elementary School, Cartoogechaye Elementary School and Iotla Valley Elementary School as well as Mountain View Intermediate 5th grade to begin Plan A on Monday, Oct. 5. Students at these schools will attend school Monday through Thursday. Fridays will remain a remote learning day.

Franklin High School, Macon Middle School, Union Academy, Macon Early College and Mountain View Intermediate School 6th grade will remain in Plan B.

Highlands School and Nantahala School will remain in their current plan.

Fridays will continue to be a virtual day for all students in order for the teachers to assist virtual students with their classwork, answer emails, take phone calls, grade assignments and hold zoom conferences. 

Macon Schools Superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin expressed gratitude for all the teachers that have been working well over the hours normally required to teach their classes. Many teachers are putting in at least 10-12 hours daily trying to teach both in person and virtual. Dr. Baldwin also noted that when they first decided to offer virtual classes, it was thought that there would be enough teachers opting to teach full time virtual classes. That did not work out as planned, but instead, there are only about five dedicated virtual teachers in the county, so that facilitate the need for all teachers to help with virtual classes.  Currently 925 students are enrolled in plan “C” full time virtual. Any student in grades K -5 who are enrolled in Plan “C” will now have a choice to transition to Plan “A.” Parents will need to contact their child’s principal to let them know they want to begin in-person instruction on Oct. 5. 

Board member Fred Goldsmith expressed concern regarding students enrolled in Plan “C” not being able to complete their work.  He is worried that these students will be falling behind due to lack of supervision at home. Many of the families whose children are enrolled in this plan either work during the day, are being raised by grandparents who do not fully understand iPads and their function or have poor connectivity issues. He fears that upon returning to in person instruction will find them far behind their peers who have been attending school under Plan “B.”  

Board member Gary Shields agreed with Goldsmith, noting that nothing takes the place of being in a classroom with a teacher.

“The Raleigh leadership that allowed 100% virtual put a disadvantage on the schools, the teachers, the parents and the students. Students enrolled in pure virtual cannot come back to class until the end of the semester. By then, they can be so far behind that there is no way for them to catch up. That is not to say that anyone is discounting a parent’s decision based on COVID 19 concerns. There is no perfect scenario concerning educational needs this year,” said Shields.

John deVille, president of the Macon County Association of Educators, addressed the board.

“I am asking you this evening to work on the issues of providing N95 masks for all faculty and staff of Macon County Schools who wish to wear one going forward, and to investigate the possibility of doing ongoing testing at all Macon County Schools as is currently happening at Highlands School.

“The North Carolina Association of Educators, as are all state associations of the National Education Association, are asking their respective school boards, county commissions, and state legislatures, to provide three essential measures of safety as more students return to our schools for face-to-face instruction:

“1. No return to the classroom unless the local positivity rate is at 3% or less. Macon County is at 3% positivity rate as of today.

“2. More rigorous testing regimens, ideally on-site testing capacity as is being done at Highlands School.

“3. N95 masks provided on an ongoing basis for all faculty and staff who wish to avail themselves of their substantial additional protection from both contraction and spread of Covid-19 and other airborne pathogens.

“Currently, the Highlands-Cashiers Foundation is providing on-site testing at Highlands School. According to principal Brian Jetter, of his 65 staff members, 13 said “yes” to testing. Parents of the 347 students attending in-person school were given a permission form; 67 said “yes” to testing.

DeVille went on to say he was also requesting the assistance of commissioners to provide funding for the testing and the masks.

“We appreciate your efforts thus far to keep our students, faculty, and staff safe during the pandemic and as we add more students to our classrooms Oct. 5, we would surely appreciate the board’s efforts, the county commissioners’ efforts, towards the extra margins of safety afforded by additional testing capacity and higher quality masks.”

School Board recognitions

Recognition went out to three people who assisted a teenage boy, who accidentally shot himself in the leg.  On April 16th the father of a teenage boy, who accidentally shot himself in the leg, pulled into the South Macon Elementary School parking lot. Two School Resource Officers (SRO) and a staff member of the school rushed to offer aid to the boy. Sandy Edwards, Administrative Assistant, SRO Anthony Zari, and SRO Chris Owens, were all quick to help stop the bleeding.  The boy was then airlifted to Mission Hospital in Asheville where he has since recovered from his wound. The boy’s father feels that by having had such quick medical aid, the three heroes helped save the boy’s life.