Pender County Schools K-5 to remain in-person second semester, high school cohort schedule adjusted

PENDER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Schools across the state are keeping a close eye on the quickly rising COVID-19 numbers as they head into the holidays.

In the Cape Fear, most school districts brought students in grades K-5 back full time, in line with the governor’s order.

Pender County and Brunswick County schools each have grades K-5 attending school fully in person, with middle and high schoolers under a hybrid learning plan.

A spokesman for each school district says things are going well, and they intend to maintain these plans through the new year.

“We know kids learn better when they’re sitting in a classroom, and they’re in front of a teacher and the teacher is able to teach them in person,” Pender County Schools spokesman Alex Riley said.

Riley says they’re actually expecting more high schoolers to switch from remote learning to hybrid learning second semester.

Pender County Schools have had students in grades K-5 back in person full time for about a month.

“It’s been going fairly well,” Riley said. “We’ve enjoyed having kids back in the building. We’ve seen a small uptick in cases, but just because we’re seeing more kids more often. But it’s been great to have the kids back The parents seem to be enjoying it. The kids seem to be adapting really well.”

As the first semester wraps up, Riley says they’re keeping an eye on the COVID-19 numbers as they get ready for the second half of the year.

“But right now, we’re going with the assumption that the plans that are in place right now are going to be the plans we have available to us when second semester starts,” Riley said. “That means elementary will be in Plan A, and then it’ll be Plan B for high schools and middle schools.”

Riley says they sent out a survey to parents asking how they plan to send their child back to school next semester, and about their technology needs for remote learning.

“If things hold true to what we’ve seen, it’ll be somewhere around 70% or 80% of our folks will want to be in the building, and the other 20% or so will want to learn remotely,” he said. “We’re expecting somewhere similar to those numbers. Maybe a little bit more coming back.”

He says one difference next semester will be the high school hybrid cohort schedule.

“We really wanted high school kids to be in the building more often,” Riley said. “The big thing we got the first semester when we started with three cohorts was a full weekend and then two weeks off, and when they were coming back on that fourth week, it was kind of a deer in the headlights look.”

Riley says they had fewer high schoolers who wanted to do hybrid learning first semester than they expected, so they bumped the cohorts from three down to two.

In the new year, Riley says high schoolers will be in school every six days for two days at a time. With more interest from high schoolers about switching to hybrid learning he says they’ve gone back to three cohorts to accommodate everyone.

“So for example, Cohort A would report on Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday would be remote learning, Cohort B would report on Thursday and Friday, and then the next week would be Cohort C on Monday and Tuesday, and then Cohort A on Thursday and Friday,” he said. “It becomes a rotation.”

If the governor makes any changes to the guidelines for schools, Riley says they’ll consider all the options they have as quickly as possible.

He says the survey for Pender County Schools about the second semester is due Sunday.

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