School leaders meet

Watauga County Schools Superintendent Scott Elliott addresses district leaders and principals at a planning meeting at the Gragg Education Center in Boone on Sunday.

BOONE — Watauga County Schools Superintendent Scott Elliott on March 15 sent more information to district staff about the governor's mandated closure of schools beginning Monday, March 16, and lasting at least two weeks.

"These decisions are my best effort to continue services for our students, minimize the financial impact to all employees and ensure the health and safety of everyone in our school community," Elliott said. "This is a dynamic and changing situation, and I will communicate with you again if these plans change. Please communicate directly with your principal or supervisor if you have specific questions about how these procedures apply to you.

"Meanwhile, please take care of yourselves and family members and let me know if I can do anything to help you."

Staff expectations

The week of March 16, and for the foreseeable future, will be classified as optional teacher workdays, and staff should report to work and work full schedules, the information stated. Staff who are sick or exhibiting symptoms similar to those identified by the CDC as consistent with COVID-19 should not report to work and should contact a principal or supervisor immediately.

On an optional teacher workday, staff may work or take the day off using paid annual leave or sick days.

"The governor's proclamation clearly stated that schools are closed for students, and that to the extent possible, we should continue to pay employees and continue services for students," Elliott told the Watauga Democrat. "This was reiterated on a conference call this afternoon with state officials. If staff are physically well and not at risk or a threat to the health of others, they should report to work so that we can work and plan together to serve our students. We do not expect staff who are sick or who are at risk due to extenuating health conditions to further risk their health by reporting to work, and we are prepared to be flexible with those employees.

"I thought this gave employees the best options for taking care of their own health while communicating that we need employees to come to work if they are able to do so."

Staff may bring their own children to work with them as long as the children are healthy and the children remain in the classroom or designated work space under the direct supervision of the parent. Employees should not bring other children to work with them.

"We are exploring plans to provide free child care to employees’ children on site in the near future," according to WCS.

Instruction and remote learning

The week of March 16-20 will be used for teachers to prepare resources, materials and communication for students. The district’s remote learning plan will be implemented starting Monday, March 23.

The emphasis on remote learning at this time will be enrichment and supplemental activities to keep students academically engaged, the district said. Expectations for contact time, access to resources and expectations for grading have been communicated from the Curriculum and Instruction team.

Facilities and operations

School facilities will be closed to the public (except for employees and their children) on Monday and Tuesday, March 16-17. This is to give staff uninterrupted time to work and to ensure healthy conditions for staff who have health concerns.

The after-school and holiday/snow day programs are closed until further notice.

Custodians, maintenance staff and bus drivers will be taking this opportunity to clean and sanitize all schools and buses.

School facilities will be open for parents to pick up student belongings and check out laptop computers (if a computer is needed) at the following times:

Wednesday, March 18

  • 8th grade student families / 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.
  • 7th grade student families / 10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
  • 6th grade student families / 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Thursday, March 19

  • 5th grade student families / 8 a.m. - 10 a.m.
  • 4th grade student families / 10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
  • 3rd grade student families / 1 p.m. - 3 p.m. p.m.

Friday, March 20 (No devices will be assigned to PreK-2nd Grade Students)

  • 2nd grade student families / 8 a.m. - 10 a.m.
  • 1st grade student families 10:30 a.m. - 12:30 a.m.
  • Kindergarten and Pre-k families / 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Makeup sesson Friday, March 20

  • 3 p.m. - 6 p.m for all grade levels.

Parents who need to pick up medication from the school nurse should call the school office and make arrangements to collect medication at one of the times above, the school system stated. If medication is needed sooner, then parents should call the school office to arrange a time to visit.

Child nutrition

Child nutrition staff will begin food distribution starting Tuesday, March 17. Distribution sites will include Hardin Park, Green Valley, Mabel and Bethel schools. Any child in the community ages 1-18 can receive a free meal at these sites. More information will be made public soon about the hours of distribution.

Families who cannot travel to receive a meal for their children should call their school to make delivery arrangements.

(2) comments

See this article...In particular- this comment as it relates to teachers staying home! "Who should follow our suggested social isolation measures? EVERYONE. If you do not need to go out for a mission-critical purpose, do not. Again, you WILL be saving the lives of at-risk members of your own family, as well as people you will never have the pleasure of meeting."

I am so pleased to see an emphasis on remote learning and a plan for feeding children in the county. However, I don’t understand the plan for teachers to have to report onsite to work a full schedule. And bring their children??? That does not honor the CDC recommendation for social distancing. Teachers should stay home to avoid contact with each other to prevent spread of the virus. Teachers can work remotely.

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