The Craven County Schools Board of Education voted unanimously to delay the return to in-person learning for all students until Jan. 19, 2021.

The decision was made during the Dec. 29, 2020 special called meeting of the board.

All students in grades pre-K through 13 will begin second semester with remote learning (Plan C), starting with early college students on Jan. 5, 2021 and students following the traditional calendar on Jan. 6, 2021.

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The board took into account active COVID-19 cases in Craven County and the impacts felt in its public schools involving quarantined staff and students following the Thanksgiving holiday, as well as the trends across the state and nation related to holiday travel numbers and continued high infection rates.

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On the last day of school before the Christmas Break, 21 staff and 135 students were under quarantine. The numbers have been as high as 99 staff and 364 students under quarantine during the first semester.

Superintendent Meghan Sweeney Doyle recommended the temporary return to all-online classes and the Board of Education accepted her recommendation unanimously.

“While this was a difficult decision for the Board of Education, ensuring the health and safety of all students and staff is always the top priority for the school system,” the school board announced in a news release.

Many factors and data points were taken into consideration to include the increase of active cases in the community as well as the lack of active substitutes willing to work during this time.

Since Thanksgiving, COVID-19 active infections in Craven County have increased from 229 on Nov. 30, 2020 to 885 on Dec. 22, 2020. This represents approximately a 386 percent increase in active infections.

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This impact has been mirrored in our schools where the number of quarantined employees increased approximately 6-8 days after the Thanksgiving holiday.

On Dec. 7, 2020, the school system had 99 staff members quarantined. During this time, although Craven County Schools has approximately 230 active substitute teachers, only 107 agreed to work during the time between Thanksgiving and the Christmas holiday.

The number of staff quarantined does not take into account the number of employees who had to take leave for other reasons.

“This large impact put several of our schools in situations where there was not enough or barely enough staff to provide supervision to students and provide instruction,” the news release said.

The following graph was presented to the Board of Education displaying the positive cases in Craven County, number of staff quarantined, and students quarantined from Nov. 30-Dec. 21, 2020:

The benefits of beginning second semester on Plan C (remote-only instruction) include keeping staff members, who may have been unknowingly exposed to COVID-19 over this break, confined to homes rather than creating the conditions on campus which would prompt the quarantine of additional staff because of close contacts.

This point alone should reduce the impact to school employees into the new year.

“It is our hope that this will enable us to begin the second semester in an even better position than we ended the first semester in terms of the number of teachers available to provide in-person instruction,” the school district announced.

“A delay of in-person instruction will provide enough time for staff, students, and families to return to a normal schedule without holiday gatherings which could potentially impact student and family member infection rates.

“The delay to start in-person learning (Plan A for elementary students and Plan B for middle/high school students) will also hopefully allow the rate of positive cases to decline among our stakeholders while keeping our staff, students, and families safe during this time.”

The school system will update this graph on its website and social media feeds.

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Teachers will have the ability to work remotely on the optional workday scheduled on the traditional and Early College calendar, Jan. 4, 2021 through Jan. 12, 2021. If teachers need to access materials in their classroom and/or internet during this time, they will have the option to work at school. All teachers will be required to report to their school building on Jan. 13, 2021 for professional development dedicated to blended learning.

Administrators will be required to attend work in-person during this time to support teachers who are both in-person and remote. Teacher assistants, bus drivers, maintenance staff, custodians, technology staff, school nutrition staff, nurses, and clerical support should report to work in-person during this time but observe all procedures for wearing face coverings at all times, minimizing (time and number of staff) congregating for meals and/or ensuring more than 6 feet of distance with colleagues at any time, and repeated hand washing.

Craven County Schools continues to plead with the community to do its part so its children can return to school in-person on Jan. 19, 2021. This includes wearing your mask, socially distancing, avoid large gatherings, and frequently washing your hands to help mitigate the spread of the virus.

“By all of us working together we can successfully move forward and finish the second semester of the 2020-2021 school year strong,” the board announced.

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