By Clint Parker
Buncombe County – Nearly 50 people showed up Tuesday morning (July 28) outside the Buncombe County Central Office to let school board members, who were meeting at 10 am this morning, in a specially called meeting to decide how to reopen, know their sentiments about how schools should reopen this Fall.
Educators, some with their children, wanted to let the school board know they believed the only safe option for their students, their children and themselves was to open remotely with Option C – remote learning (see comments below).
However, in a 4-3 vote, the board voted to go with what is being called “B-Beyond.” Buncombe County Dr. Tony Baldwin presented “B-Beyond” as a revised plan that will encompass the first six weeks of the school year. According to Baldwin, 39 percent of Buncombe County students have opted for remote learning, but for the 61 percent that didn’t, he then outline the plan for the first six weeks.
Starting with K-8, Baldwin said the classes would be split into two groups, A and B, with the groups alternating days (group A on Monday and Wednesday and B on Tuesday and Thursday) in the classroom with their teachers for the first four days starting at 8 am and ending with a two-hour early dismissal. Friday would be a remote day for everyone. The next five weeks would then be remote learning. The idea behind the first week in-person is to help foster a relationship between teacher and student, said Baldwin. At the end of the six weeks, Baldwin said staff would come back to the board with additional recommendations.
For high school students not opting for remote learning, they will also be on a similar schedule, but the day starting at 9 am instead of 8, with the same two-hour early dismissal, but will do this over two weeks and not one like K-8. The difference is to allow high schoolers to meet all four of their four different courses’ teachers and the changing of classes.
Mask will be mandatory for staff and students with few exceptions. To accommodate language pronunciation learning and hearing-impaired students, the system is working on getting visible facemask so the mouth can be seen. Mask will be worn in classrooms, in buildings and while outdoors on school grounds. Only students with documented medical conditions will be allowed to forgo masks. No mask will be required while eating or exercising; there social distancing will be enforced.
Some board members worried about how economically disadvantaged students would be affected and how students who rejected wearing masks might be disciplined.
After some debate, the vote came down to a 4-3 vote in favor of the plan. Voting for the plan was board members Margaret (Peggy) Buchanan (Owen), Amy Churchill (Roberson), Ann Franklin (North Buncombe), and Max Queen (Enka). Those voting against were Cindy McMahon (Reynolds), Donna Pate (at-large) and Pat Bryant (Erwin).