Superintendent Weekly Update
from the desk of ..... Kathy Amos
June 11, 2020
I cannot thank each of you enough for the time, effort, care, and overall pouring your heart into this school year for our kids. We have faced the most difficult times in our lifetime, and if I dare say, in the modern day public school history. We faced a year without a new state budget, lockdown due to a worldwide pandemic and nationwide protests due to the reprehensible actions of an officer. Through all of these major fears and struggles, I saw the best come out in our school system. Your compassion, integrity, and true love and concern for our students has been evident day in and day out, especially during the last 9 weeks of the school year.
I also thank you for giving me a chance. A chance to learn and grow personally and professionally. We love Yancey County and especially this dynamic school system. Our family looks forward to knowing each of you as we transition into this upcoming year.
Lighting Our Way Forward: North Carolina's Guidebook for Reopening Schools
The North Carolina State Board of Education (SBE) and Department of Public Instruction (DPI), in consultation and response to guidelines issued by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), have developed guidance to support public school units (PSUs) and communities in determining their plans and strategies for reopening schools. The Lighting Our Way Forward: Summary Document provides an overview and synthesis of NCDHHS requirements, clear, actionable steps that are advisable before students and employees return to school buildings, and guidance that is applicable throughout the 2020-2021 school year. This Summary Document includes topic specific links to the more comprehensive and detailed Lighting Our Way Forward: North Carolina’s Guidebook for Reopening Public Schools.
The Guidebook is a living document that will continue to capture the most current information to help guide districts and communities. This approach is built upon the guidance and recommendations of public health officials; it is strongly aligned to the reopening guidelines that have been provided by our state and federal leaders; and it’s designed to help districts prioritize the health and safety of students and teachers as they open school buildings and deliver instruction for the 2020-2021 school year.
The Lighting Our Way Forward: Summary Document focuses heavily on operational guidance for district and school leaders based on the health and physical requirements necessary for reopening school buildings. As impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic unfold, the SBE and DPI will continue to provide guidance and recommendations to districts and schools on navigating the academic, social, and emotional effects on students and employees.
State officials release guidelines for reopening NC public schools
by Kari Barrows
RALEIGH, N.C. (WLOS) — Leaders announced on Monday specific guidelines recommended for North Carolina public schools trying to reopen by August.
On June 8, Governor Roy Cooper, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson, State Board of Education Chair Eric Davis, and NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Secretary Mandy Cohen unveiled plans from StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit (K-12). The Toolkit lays out comprehensive steps recommended for public schools to minimize risk of exposure to COVID-19.
"Getting children back to school to learn is a high priority, but they must be able to do so in the safest way possible,” said Governor Cooper during Monday's press conference. “Every child, family and public school educator in North Carolina deserves strong protection to lower the risk of virus spread.”
Schools are asked to plan for reopening under three scenarios:
- Plan A: Minimal Social Distancing
- Plan B: Moderate Social Distancing
- Plan C: Remote Learning Only
Officials stated that NC DHHS, in consultation with the State Board of Education and Department of Public Instruction (NC DPI), will announce by July 1 which of the three plans should be implemented for schools to most safely reopen. However, the remaining plans may be needed if the state’s COVID-19 metrics change over time.
"Opening schools will be possible if we keep working together to slow the spread of COVID-19," Secretary Cohen said. "We will each need to do our part and practice the 3 Ws – Wear a cloth face covering. Wait six feet apart. Wash your hands frequently. These easy actions will have outsized impact in keeping viral spread low to in order to help get our children back to school."
“We are working together to balance the need for all of our children to get back to school – especially children who rely on public schools for their education, health, safety and nutrition – while at the same time proceeding cautiously and deliberately to protect their health and safety,” Chairman Davis said. “I know meeting these public health requirements will take a tremendous effort by our schools – but I also know we are doing the right thing and that our schools will rise to the challenge.”
According to a press release from NC DHHS, the Toolkit will be a companion to guidance by NC DPI, offering strategies for implementing public health guidance and other non-health areas for reopening including planning, scheduling, instructional practice, and staff training.
"Today, North Carolinians have the important first step of returning to schools in the fall with this release of the final health guidance for schools from the NC Department of Health and Human Services," Superintendent Johnson said. "In addition, the North Carolina education agency has already been leading workgroups, comprised of diverse stakeholders from teachers to school staff to superintendents to other support professionals, to create draft operational strategies that will help our school systems prepare for the fall. We will now seek feedback on the draft operational strategies from other stakeholders across the state to ensure that we best capture the needs of all our schools.”
According to state leaders, the Toolkit, a collaborative effort between NC DPI and NC DHHS, was developed using the most current CDC guidance for schools and includes requirements and recommendations for the following areas:
- Social Distancing and Minimizing Exposure
- Cloth Face Coverings
- Protecting Vulnerable Populations
- Cleaning and Hygiene
- Monitoring for Symptoms
- Handling Suspected, Presumptive or Confirmed Positive Cases of COVID-19
- Communication and Combating Misinformation
- Water and Ventilation System
- Coping and Resilience
Some requirements in the Toolkit include:
- Requiring students and others to be screened for illness before entering school
- Requiring floor markings to maintain social distance
The Toolkit also includes:
- Sample screening symptom checklists in English and Spanish
- A flow chart protocol for handling suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19
- A checklist of infection control supplies schools may need
According to NC DHHS, the Toolkit will be updated with any new health guidance released by the CDC and additional resources.
Anyone with questions about the Toolkit can email StrongSchoolsNC@dhhs.nc.gov (in English or in Spanish).
CLICK HERE to view a full version of StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit (K-12) online.
COVID-19 Testing and Contact Tracing Check Your Symptoms and Find Your Testing Place Online
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) has expanded COVID-19 testing and contact tracing across the state to help keep everyone's families and neighbors safe. You can now access online tools to determine if you should consider being tested and to find a testing site near you.
- Visit Check My Symptoms (www.ncdhhs.gov/symptoms) and enter your symptoms to determine if you should consider getting tested for COVID-19. If a test is recommended, you will receive a link to a list of nearby testing sites via email or text.
- Visit Find My Testing Place (www.ncdhhs.gov/TestingPlace) and enter your county or ZIP code to access a list of nearby testing site locations online.
COVID-19 Contact Tracing
One way to know you may have been exposed to another person who has COVID-19 is if you receive a call from a contact tracer. Contact tracers, including local health department staff, reach out to people who may have recently come into close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19.
It is important to answer the call when a contact tracer reaches out. He or she will connect you with the information and support you need to protect yourself and your loved ones. Here's what will happen if you are contacted:
- You will get an initial text from the number 45394 or email from NC-ARIAS-NoReply@dhhs.nc.gov.
- Someone from your local health department or NC OUTREACH (844-628-7223) will follow up with phone calls.
- You may be advised by your contact tracer to use the COVID-19 Community Team Outreach (CCTO) Tool, a password-protected online resource to track your symptoms.
Testing and tracing are core public health measures and key components of North Carolina’s strategy to responsibly ease restrictions, while continuing to slow the spread of the virus. If you believe you or or a loved one may need a COVID-19 test, check your symptoms and find a testing place today.
For the latest information on COVID-19, visit nc.gov/covid19.