Prepared and excited: Some Durham Public Schools return to in-person learning Monday, Mar. 15

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- More than 300 students will return to Y.E. Smith Elementary School next week. The majority of the students are Black and Latino.

Here's what students and parents can expect:

  • Desks will be spread out across the classroom.

  • Everyone will be required to wear a mask.

  • No more than 14 students and up to 2 teachers in each class.

  • Health screening stations are set up at five different entrance points at the school to reduce congestion.

  • Bus riders will enter from a separate location from students who walk to school.

  • Breakfast and lunch will be served in class instead of the cafeteria.

  • Signs will be everywhere reminding everyone of the 3 W's.

Principal Joi Gibson-Robinson says 83 percent of her staff are Black and Latino, and nearly all of them are returning. The majority of her staff has received at least one dose of the vaccine.

She says staff are prepared and excited.

"No pun intended you miss the joy. You miss the joy of all of it-of actually being with our children," said Gibson-Robinson. "While I think virtual works well and it's every body's choice. I like to be closer, a lot closer to my scholars."

A district-wide survey, according to Durham Public Schools, shows 39 percent of families wanted in-person learning. The four small specialty high schools (City of Medicine Academy, J.D. Clement Early College High School, Middle College at Durham Tech, and New Tech High School) will reopen for a cohort of students on Mar. 18 and the remaining high schools and middle schools will reopen for a cohort on Apr. 8.

All schools will provide online-only asynchronous learning on "Wellness Wednesdays." Elementary students will be in-person for the other four days a week. Middle and high school students will attend on Mondays-Tuesdays or Thursdays-Fridays on three rotating cohorts.

More information about the reopening plan is available on the DPS website at

DPS superintendent Pascal Mubenga says approximately 2,000 of the district's 5,000 employees have received the vaccine.

If you have a child in Durham Public Schools and have questions and concerns about the reopening plan, DPS is holding a virtual town hall Tuesday, Mar. 9th at 7 p.m. It will be available on all of DPS' social media channels.
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