Alamance-Burlington School System Superintendent Dr. Bruce Benson held a press conference the morning of Tuesday, July 21 to discuss the latest in the ABSS's planning for the 2020-21 school year. Later this week, the ABSS School Board will vote on a proposal to conduct remote learning for the first nine weeks of the school year. Below are the Superintendent's comments:
Dear ABSS Colleagues and Community:
All summer, we’ve been making plans for what school will look like when students return to us during this unprecedented pandemic. Like all other school districts across the state and nation, ABSS has been diligent, dedicated and flexible with developing plans to offer our students a high-quality education in as safe a learning environment as possible and based on health and safety guidelines from the CDC and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
As you know, all school districts have been working on plans for 3 different scenarios: Plan A, Plan B and Plan C with the ability to pivot from one plan to another as needed based on the current situation with the pandemic. In ABSS, we’ve spent most of our energy on Plans B & C as these are the most complex to complete in these challenging times.
Last week, Governor Cooper announced that all schools would open under Plan B for the 2020-2021 school year. At that time, ABSS announced that we would meet the state’s Plan B reopening requirements with an A-B day schedule to reopen schools with less than 50% of our students attending on alternating days. This model is our preferred choice because it means that all of our K-12 students will have more in-class time with direct instruction from their teachers than other models discussed in North Carolina and across the country. In addition, we will be able to ensure that our students have access to nutritious meals each day.
Our Plan B also offers a remote learning option for families who are unsure about whether or not they want their child to return to the classroom, even under social-distancing guidelines. We surveyed our staff members about their teaching preferences, we’ve surveyed our families about their preferred return to school ideas, and asked families about their needs for bus transportation and for technology needs for remote learning. With all of the careful plans we have developed based on the information we received to date, we will be ready to launch Plan B when needed.
But, since we made our announcement to reopen under Plan B last week, state-level guidance for school reopening has continued to change. The National Centers for Disease Control was supposed to release updated guidance last week but that hasn’t been issued yet and we are fast approaching the start of school on August 17. After our initial surveys of families and staff, families were asked to commit to at-home or in-person learning as well as transportation needs. We are hoping that with additional time and improvement in COVID-19 metrics, more families will select in-person learning.
With these things in mind, and knowing that the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise across the state and in our community, I feel it is important for us to pause on our Plan B back to school rollout for now.
On Thursday, July 23, we have a special called meeting of our board of education scheduled and one important item on the agenda is a continued discussion of our Back to School plans for our 23,000 students and families.
At that meeting, I plan to recommend to the board that we instead begin the school year under guidelines we have developed for Plan C reopening which will mean total remote learning for all students in grades K-12 for the first 9 weeks of school. During this first grading period of at-home learning, beginning August 17, we will continue to monitor the COVID-19 metrics to determine when we believe that a gradual return to in-school learning, our Plan B, can begin.
We will pause our Plan B model for the A-B day schedule to implement when our community is in a better position with the COVID-19 infection % rate. At that point, we will be able to communicate that we will be able to transition from fully-remote learning to a blended model of in-class learning and at-home learning on alternating days with our Plan B guidelines.
We will continue to update our ABSS Back to School Plan with more details for Plan B and Plan C as federal and statewide guidance continues to evolve. Additional information will be available as a part of the Board agenda item today, including what learn-at-home schedules will look like across grade levels.
We are optimistic that if everyone in our community will follow the simple guidelines for wearing a mask, washing hands and waiting 6 feet apart, we will be able to welcome our students back to our classrooms on Plan B later this fall.
This is a challenging time, no doubt, but I am extremely proud of our ABSS team working so hard to be ready for our new school year in support of our students and families. We will be successful together. Thank you for your continued support.