The Kannapolis City Schools Board of Education voted unanimously Friday to go back to school in August under Gov. Roy Cooper’s Plan B (partially in-person, partially online) at a special called meeting.
Under the district's plan, families of students will have the option to come to school under Plan B when starting Aug. 17, but they can also decide to go fully remote when school starts.
Superintendent Chip Buckwell said about 63 percent of students and families responded they would like to go back to some form of in-person learning in a survey that has been passed out over the last week. The district will continue to accept surveys through this weekend.
Buckwell recommended KCS go back to school under Plan B before taking questions from board members.
“I recommend, based on everything you have heard here today and before, that Kannapolis City Schools begin the 20-21 school year using Option B as laid out by our governor, and more precisely, laid out by our staff in our Blended Learning model with a Remote Learning option for families choosing to remain in a remote setting,” he said.
While members of the board of education did have questions for Buckwell and Assistant Superintendent Kevin Garay, they appeared to be on board with the recommendation from the beginning.
Board Chair Todd Adams said several months ago that he believes students need to get back into schools, and his opinion has not changed in the several months since the shutdown in March.
“I’d like to take a moment just to thank everyone that has been on the teams that you have, both from our district and from the Health Alliance and from Cabarrus that have worked on this,” he said. “Dr. Buckwell, I know you’ve had many restless nights since March, and you’ve done an awful lot of work, and we appreciate that. The entire administration team has done a tremendous amount of work, and you guys have been very responsive to us as we’ve asked questions over the last couple of months, and I think that has helped us be a little more at ease as we’re making a decision today.
“It’s a difficult decision, right? No matter how we vote, someone’s not going to be happy with what happens today, but we have to do what we feel like the best is for the majority of the students and our community, and we have to figure out what the best is.”
Adams said that of the people he has talked to, all of them want to get back to school. Board member Kevin Clark agreed and said that was a driving force behind the board’s thinking Friday.
“Our kids need to be in the building,” Adams said. “Our kids need it. Our community needs it. And, hopefully, us going back in Plan B, and hopefully having success, will help pull along to get us to face to face and five days, and help pull along athletics, extracurricular activities, things this community needs.”
There is concern about going back to school in the state and what that might mean with spreading COVID-19. Cabarrus County Schools voted 4-3 in a special meeting Thursday to go back under Plan C (fully online learning) because of the possibility of contributing to the spread in the community.
Kannapolis is in a different spot than CCS. Cabarrus County deals with more than 39,000 people per day, while KCS operates on a much smaller scale with only one high school.
KCS feels like it has prepared properly for the reopening of schools, but officials said if students are uncomfortable coming back, they have the option to work from home. That option made the board's decision to go back under Plan B easier as well.
“I think that it’s important that we look at our families versus the rest of Cabarrus County as a separate entity,” said board member Brenda McCombs. “I think that our population of students needs to get back to school; the families need to get back to work.
“I think it’s important to have (those) choices, though, for those families that don’t feel comfortable coming back to school. I think it’s important for them to have the choice to stay home and learn, and I appreciate that you worked so hard to make it available so that everybody can be making the choice that’s most comfortable for their family.”
When voting to return to school under Plan B, the board emphasized that it will stay focused on the reports of illness in the community shared by the Cabarrus Health Alliance, and if those numbers go in the wrong direction, the school system will move to Plan C.
However, if the numbers improve over a two-week and then a four-week period, then the system will be flexible enough to be ready to return to school under Plan A if the governor declares schools can do so.
“I do think that it’s important for our kids to get back to school,” said board member Anita Parker. “I think it’s in their best interest not only academically, but certainly socially and emotionally, and I’m all for that.”
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