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Issue 1

September 27th, 2019

PCS Board of Education mandates virtual Mondays 

FRI. | 9-11-20 | NEWS

     In March this year, COVID-19 changed the way the schools operate. The Board of Education has met numerous times to discuss ways for Pitt County Schools to adapt to the changes the virus has brought. On Friday, Sept. 4, the Board voted on switching every Monday to a virtual learning day. This begins on Monday, Sept. 14 and ends after Thanksgiving break.

     Since teachers only had four days to prepare for the school year, they have been overwhelmed with having to teach hybrid classes. This problem was introduced to the Board of Education and they voted to make all Mondays completely virtual. This way, teachers have time off from teaching hybrid classes and they will also have some extra time to grade. This decision is also beneficial to students because no new lessons will  be taught and they can Zoom with their teachers for extra help or to catch up on work.

     “Multiple teachers said that having that pause day [during the first week of school] helped them catch up and get prepared for the next days,” Vice Chair of the Board of Education Melinda Fagundus said. “We decided to keep Mondays all virtual until the Monday before Thanksgiving break.”

     There are four different groups of people that COVID decisions had to pass through before they were made final. The first group is the governor, Roy Cooper, and the North Carolina Health Department. Governor Cooper provided general guidelines on how schools can run. For instance, this school year he gave counties the ability to choose between Plan B or Plan C. He asked representatives from each county to come up with scenarios on how students can return back to school. Together, the counties proposed Plan A: all face-to-face, Plan B: hybrid or 50 percent capacity at one time, and Plan C: all virtual. Governor Cooper took these ideas and chose to give counties the option of Plan B or Plan C. After this, Cooper worked with the North Carolina Health Department (NCHD) on setting restrictions and guidelines. The NCHD made an instruction manual called the North Carolina Toolkit to Reopening. This book outlines every possible scenario that can happen in a school that is COVID related, and how to deal with that situation.

     Next in the line of decision making is the senior staff. This is a group of six people from the county that discuss possible schooling options and present it for a Board to vote to decide on whether it should be implemented.

     Third in line is the Pitt County Board of Education. With nine members, the Board requires a majority vote in order for a plan to proceed. To consider every aspect, they host public meetings where they discuss pros and cons of the senior staff’s ideas, and put the final decision to a vote.

     Finally, each school’s administrative staff holds the responsibility to adapt the plan to their particular school.

     Last year, North Carolina schools were faced with a decision on how to run schools during the outbreak of COVID. In this case, Governor Cooper made a decision that immediately went into effect without every group having to discuss it. He made schools switch from face-to-face learning to virtual learning. One of the issues posed by the shift was the fact that many students did not have access to WiFi, and consequently could not complete their work.

      “The biggest problem was the lack of devices because at the time we were not a county that had a one-to-one ratio of devices to students,” Fagundus said. “Not every student has access to a laptop, chromebook or iPad, so that was our biggest concern.”

     After receiving the state announcement of the various plans in mid-July, the Board decided to vote to proceed via hybrid learning with the intention to hold meetings to discuss the details of the plan. With the help of the Toolkit Guide to Reopening, the Board came up with a plan of how schools could implement hybrid learning. This decision came with one major problem: teachers only get paid during the school year. 

     “Teachers get paid on a ten month cycle and that cycle started on Aug. 14, so we did not want to make them do anything on their time off,” Smith said. “They had four days to learn all the procedures and how to upload and grade things on Canvas.”

     Despite all the guidelines and obstacles, Pitt County school officials have found a way to make face-to-face learning possible. While virtual learning is an option, most hope that face-to-face learning will remain available the rest of the year.

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Graphic by Murphy Fisher and

Tierney Reardon

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