BLUF: Due to Governor Cooper’s address yesterday and the Board of Directors’ approval to move forward as soon as possible, TJCA will move to Plan-A (limited social distancing) starting Monday, March 29th. We will be five days a week for K-5 and four days a week 6-12. Temperature checks are no longer required to be on-campus or to attend school events.
OVERVIEW: Over the last year, the United States education system has battled to find a balance between physical safety and educational growth/mental health. To say that this has been stressful for teachers, students, and parents would be an understatement at best! Although there have been multiple changes to policies and laws over the last two weeks, I do think we are at the right place now. Yesterday, Governor Cooper's public address stated NC was ready to go back to school, and he asked each local educational agency to consider implementing a safe return plan carefully.
We gathered some of our key administrators, teachers, and support staff to discuss our potential problems and concerns, both immediate and future. In doing so, we talked about everything from in-school learning, transportation, sporting events, social events (prom and homecoming for example), and even graduation. We realized the need to slow down in order to make sure we had a clear and concise plan, the ability to communicate it, and the time to adjust as required.
I would like to specifically thank our excellent teachers who continually have to change their lesson plans according to the requirements levied on by the law and policy changes. I ask everyone to take a moment to thank them for what they have done and continue to do!
Grades K-5: The grammar school will continue with their current plan, five days a week in-person learning with minimal social distancing in the classroom and buses, and masks are still required. Remote options are offered for those who require it, but I hope everyone will consider coming back to school if medically possible.
Grades 6-12: Both the middle and high schools will conduct in-person learning Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Wednesdays are off to allow our teachers to focus on remote learners while our staff can perform extra cleaning. This will be under Plan-A with limited social distancing in class and on the bus, and masks will still be required.
For clarification, we are in school on Friday, April 2nd, and then start spring break on Saturday, April 3rd. We return to in-class learning on Monday, April 12th. Due to my previous guidance, I fully understand if you made family plans for spring break and are unable to attend school on April 1st or 2nd. Please communicate with your teachers, and we will work with you on a solution.
CONCERNS: I would like to remind you that the return will be very similar to the first day of school for both campuses. Traffic, bus riders, parking, lunch lines, hallways, etc., will double overnight, and I ask for everyone’s patience as we work through these situations. I have talked with the staff, and we will be ultra-sensitive to how students will react to the return. For some, this is the first time they have been in school in a year, and there will be some social-emotional effects. We will continue to teach, but we must continue to be aware of the extraordinary situation and give grace accordingly.
One reason I wanted to come back a week before break was to give our students, staff, and families the ability to get back on campus and see what problems we may have missed. During the break, it will be a fantastic opportunity for us to assess, reflect, and implement changes to certain situations. We hope that the return goes smoothly and that we will gain some semblance of stability for our last two months.
ATHLETICS: The NCHSAA communicated all athletic events will now operate at 50% capacity. Based on this guidance, Coach Jones is changing our ticket sales, and hopefully everyone who wants to attend will be able to do so. Masks will still be required at indoor events, and at outdoor events if people cannot maintain six feet separation. We have a mandate to continue remote learning for those who have medical concerns, and I think this is a fantastic idea! With this in mind, I want to clarify that if there is a concern requiring a student to participate in remote learning, they should not compete in a sport. Coach Jones is aware and will make sure coaches fully understand this restriction starts Monday, March 29th.
SOCIAL EVENTS: We are currently planning social events for our students, and especially our seniors. I want to be very cautious in how we do this, and we must make sure that we are doing it safely and reasonably. A phenomenal group of mothers started to organize a Senior Prom, and we are honored to stand beside them and help organize the event. Our ultimate goal is student safety, which includes their mental health safety. Social events are critical in this regard, and as Governor Cooper continues to lighten the restrictions, we will continue to offer more events for our students.
TRANSPORTATION: Our bus routes will continue to run but please know there is no longer a one-student per seat restriction. To bring everyone back, we will need to follow the current Plan-A guidelines of limited social distancing. If you have any questions, please contact your grammar, middle, or high school front office.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This has been an unprecedented year, and I cannot thank you enough for your patience and understanding of how we are consistently aiming at a moving target. I hope that we are on a steady and sustainable upward trajectory. We will continue to communicate concerning any issues as they come up. Lastly, I know some of you have medical concerns, and I want to stress, if you have concerns, we will fully support you in staying remote! However, if possible, I would like to encourage you to come back to campus and take advantage of in-person learning. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christopher M. Wright
Executive Director, TJCA