Cumberland County students will not attend school next week, with classes canceled Monday and Tuesday ahead of the scheduled Thanksgiving break starting Wednesday.
When classes resume Monday, Nov. 30, students will be remote learning through Wednesday, with in-person classes resuming Thursday, Dec. 3.
“We saw our biggest spike in the numbers after Halloween,” Director of Schools Ina Maxwell said. “With remote learning Monday through Wednesday after Thanksgiving, that will be five days. Typically, people will begin showing signs and symptoms in that time. So we hope this will help prevent widespread transmission.”
Maxwell and Marsha Polson, supervisor of coordinated school health and school nursing supervisor, have been in close contact with the Cumberland County Health Department and looking at trends in the community.
“We know students will spend time with their families over Thanksgiving,” Polson said. “We hope people will take heed and stay home if they have symptoms prior to coming back to school.”
On Wednesday, there were 344 active cases in Cumberland County. The school system reported last week there were 30 positive cases of COVID-19 among students and 19 among school staff. There were also 461 students and 38 staff members in quarantine due to being in close contact with a positive case.
Polson explained close contact was defined as being within six feet of someone for more than a combined 15 minutes during the day — with or without wearing a mask.
Families have been very helpful in contact tracing, letting the school know when they have had a positive test.
“[Contact tracing is] time consuming and it’s hard for the parent, but it has been well worth it,” Polson said. “We can see where we’re preventing that spread.”
Quarantine lasts for 14 days from the date of last exposure. That could be as long as 24 days for a child living in a home with someone who has tested positive. Individuals who test positive are to isolate for 10 days, per CDC guidelines.
Maxwell noted that while active cases in the community had not reached the “red zone,” with more than 607 active cases, she noted the plan did note that the school system would consider trends, contact tracing and other information when determining school attendance plans.
“There’s not a magic number” she said.
She did say the school system’s substitute teacher list was exhausted, with teachers and administrators covering classrooms during the day and many bus drivers taking on double routes.
With schools closed for a few days, it will also provide an opportunity to deep clean the schools.
Students will get instructions on Thursday for how remote learning will work. Students in third grade and above will be issued a Chromebook to use at home, logging in on Google Classroom, Google Meet or Zoom for instruction. Younger students will get packets from their teachers and have daily check-ins.
The school system will also provide packets for students who do not have home internet service or who have unreliable service. Wifi will be available in the parking lot of each school if parents wish to make use of that service.
Special education services will be provided by daily phone calls.
Meal service will be offered on virtual learning days.
Unlike when schools closed in the spring, remote learning will be considered instructional days and the work will be required to be completed and returned.
“But we’ve got to be flexible,” Maxwell said. “We understand every family has a different situation.”
The transportation department and school nutrition department will team up to deliver meals using school bus routes. Parents can also pick up meals at Cumberland County High School or Stone Memorial High School. Elementary students who attend Martin, South Cumberland, Brown or Pleasant Hill elementary schools can pick up meals at CCHS while elementary students at Stone, North Cumberland, Homestead, Crab Orchard or Pine View elementary schools can pick up meals at SMHS. Forms were sent home Wednesday asking families for their preference.
There will not be meal delivery on days schools are closed and not providing remote instruction.
Decisions on scheduled athletic events are pending at this time, Maxwell added.
Polson praised the schools for their efforts to get ready for remote learning. Though a plan had been in place since school began in August, she said staffs had pulled together this week to get everything in place. Central Office staff plans to be at the schools on Friday to help, as well.
Maxwell said she had announced the closure and move to remote learning Wednesday evening to help families have more time to plan and prepare for the change, though she knows there will be families who face challenges with the move.
“I really want to make everybody happy, but that’s not possible,” she said. “But the decisions that are made are made with the students’ and staffs’ best interest at heart.”