Pender County elementary schools to remain under hybrid plan, high school plan adjusted

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BURGAW, NC (WWAY) — The Pender County Board of Education voted Tuesday night to keep elementary schools under a hybrid of in-person and virtual learning for the time being.

The board was given three options by school staff. Option 1 would keep elementary schools under the current plan. Option 2 would move elementary schools into Plan A full-time in-person learning. Option 3 would remain under the current plan and allow full-time remote students to return to classrooms if they choose to do so.

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The board voted in favor of Option 3, which goes into effect on November 2.

“We just felt like this was a comfortable compromise to make a step forward for our families and our community, but also do it safely,” said superintendent Dr. Steven Hill.

Although a majority of parents surveyed favor Plan A, a majority of teachers do not. Since October 1, the county has seen a spike of 172 positive COVID-19 cases, although 63 of those were at Pender Correctional.

“We’re moving forward, so we are creeping into A, we’re just doing it as safely as possible with this spike in the numbers currently,” Hill said.

The district estimates 198 students per day will return to elementary schools from remote-only learning.

“The 200 number is survey numbers, so we’ll wait and see what the families want to do in the community as we offer that option,” Dr. Hill said. “It’s a chicken and the egg situation, you don’t know what you’re going to do until you get the numbers and the parents don’t know what to tell you they’re going to do until they have the facts.”

The board also voted to change the current high school model of hybrid learning.

Currently, high school students are split into three groups. Each group attends school in-person for one week, then learns remotely for two weeks.

The new plan splits students into two groups, allowing for one week in-person learning, one week remote. All students will learn remotely on Wednesdays to allow for buildings to be cleaned.

“Moving those kids onto those platforms was quicker, smoother, and it allowed us to go back and say ‘now we think we can combine those three different groups into two groups safely.”

The new plans go into effect November 2. The Board of Education will revisit the decision at its next regular meeting November 10.