Wake County school leaders discuss criteria for returning students to classrooms, athletics

COVID-19 and schools

CARY, N.C. (WNCN) — Wake County school board members are discussing reopening plans for students, looking at numerous scheduling options and timelines for bringing children back to class.

As students prepare to go back to the classroom, the board must decide whether specific health metrics will guide the return to class. 

Staffers recommended an average positivity rate of 5% or below for two weeks, but one health expert said carefully followed plans that included masks and social distancing are more important than rates of infection in preventing spread.  

“It’s not the metrics but rather it’s the plan,” said Dr. Danny Benjamin with ABC Science Collaborative. 

The board also needs to determine how often students will attend class. Because so many students chose virtual academy, board members say students may be able to attend school more frequently than the original plan of one week in class two weeks remote. 

The board must figure out whether all grade levels will be back in school or just some of them.

 “Special needs students as well as the younger students need a face-to-face, a hands-on approach,” noted Wake County school board chair Keith Sutton.  

Because the state cannot open under Plan A, all grade levels cannot attend school every day. 

The earliest date for most students to return to class would likely be the start of the second quarter near the end of October. 

Wake County is  planning a return to athletic workouts – phasing in a couple of sports at a time beginning October 1. That’s when cross country and volleyball athletes could start two optional workouts days a week.

Other sports would follow depending on how things go.  

When it comes to sports and school, several board members said success depends on the everyone working to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  

“I would really like to see the whole community wear the mask,” said board member Roxie Cash. “That will make it easier for us to get back to school.” 

No final decisions were made in a meeting Tuesday evening.  The board will meet again next Wednesday to continue discussing options.

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