Johnston County Schools vote to reopen online, K-5 students able to re-enter classrooms starting Sept. 8

SMITHFIELD, N.C. (WTVD) -- Johnston County Public Schools announced its plan to start the 2020-2021 school year virtually with elementary students having the ability to have in-person classes under Plan-B starting September 8.

After a nearly 6-hour in-person board meeting on Wednesday night, the Johnston County school board voted unanimously (7-0) to reopen under a hybrid schedule. Despite finally coming to a decision, board members did not seem entirely confident in its plan to reopen.

Students would go back to school starting on Aug. 17. Under the proposed plan, starting on September 8, kindergarten through 5th-grade students would have the option of operating on the hybrid in-person and virtual learning on an "AABB" plan. While the fate of middle and high school students remains to be announced.

Council members will meet again on August 11 to determine how pre-kindergarten, middle and high school students' school year will proceed.

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Bracy initially cited metrics provided by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. As of Tuesday, Johnston County had the sixth-largest number of confined cases in North Carolina.

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Deputy Superintendent Dr. Paula Coates along with several other leaders of departments presented reopening recommendations. During the board meeting, chair members Dr. Peggy Smith and Ronald Johnson challenged multiple reopening plans including topics of virtual learning access, in-class learning and transportation. Johnson-- in particular-- passionately fought over concerns about transportation employment and funding which became a large talking point among board members.

School officials asked staff members 'At this time, if you could choose the learning model for next year, you would choose: 42.3 percent (1,532) voted have in-class learning, 28.9 percent (1,045) voted for a hybrid learning program, 9.4 percent (704) and 3.4 percent were unsure of how they felt.

Several nearby school districts, including Wake County Public School System, Cumberland County Schools and Durham Public Schools opted to start their school years online due to the current COVID-19 metrics in North Carolina.

After the board's decision, the school system says it will expand on its plans for students in need of an individualized educational plan (IEP).

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As guidance for the reopening plan, Bracy cited Gov. Roy Cooper's three-point school district reopening plan in the state.

Enrollment in the Johnston County Virtual Program will be available beyond the initial July 21 end date as decisions are finalized for the 2020-21 school year.
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