The Guilford County Board of Education has approved a reopening plan.
Superintendent Sharon Contreras revised her original recommendation of starting the first five weeks of school with remote learning. Instead, she proposed nine weeks.
After a long, and at times contentious meeting on Tuesday evening, the measure passed with a 6 to 3 vote. This means buildings wouldn't open for classes until October 20.
Contreras says the decision was based on several factors. Those include increasing COVID-19 cases in Guilford County, not enough staff, and funding to meet social distancing and other safety requirements.
Contreras says it's a difficult decision for everyone involved.
“I know we want our lives back,” she says. “Some of the emails that I read and what we are asking for in terms of the school day. It isn't going to be what we had before. One day we will get to that, but it's not going to be in the near future.”
Child care for working families and teachers was also a topic of discussion during the meeting. The pause on in-person instruction could impact an after school care enrichment program known as ACES, and the workers who provide those services.
Guilford County School leaders say they will revisit reopening scenarios in September. But some board members voiced concerns over waiting.
“We have strung our parents along long enough. We need to go ahead and decide how we are going to reopen schools and we don't need to wait until September,” says board member Anita Sharpe.
Meanwhile, school leaders say they're discussing appointment-based open houses to help students readjust to remote learning.
Contreras says she hopes the extra time will give schools more preparation for reentry and the possibility of additional funding from the federal government to help hire additional staff and provide needed resources during the pandemic.
Guilford County Schools serves more than 73,000 students. It's the state's third-largest school system.
Earlier this month, the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education also approved starting off the school year with Plan C, remote learning for all students in grades K-12. This will also take place for the first nine weeks of classes.
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