RALEIGH (WTVD) -- The Wake County Public School System voted on a more conservative reopening plan than previously presented, keeping many students at home through the end of the semester.
After several hours of discussion Tuesday night, the board voted to bring pre-K through third-grade students into the classroom for a single three-week rotation starting Oct. 26. Then, on Nov. 16, all students in those grade levels would move to full in-person instruction.
Instead of approving the plan proposed by Superintendent Cathy Moore, the board also approved a plan to bring fourth and fifth grade students back into the classroom on Nov. 16 on a three-week rotation, meaning students would attend classes in-person for one week and utilize remote learning for two weeks.
Earlier this month, the school board discussed a phased approach that would bring all students into classrooms by mid-November on a three-week rotating basis. However, Moore introduced revised guidelines at Tuesday's meeting, which would keep students in grades 4 and above in remote learning through the end of the fall semester.
Moore cited large class sizes in grades 4 and 5 and rotating class periods for high school students as reasons to keep students at home through the end of the semester.
Additionally, Moore said because middle and high school teachers would need to teach both in-person and online at the same time in a 3-week rotational system, district leaders felt keeping students remote would simplify the process.
While some board members questioned the reasons for keeping grades 4 and 5 at home for the rest of the semester, others applauded the initiative to bring younger students into the classroom as quickly as possible, while still allowing students and teachers to acclimate to learning in a pandemic.
"There's problems with any plan at this point while we operate under the rules of this pandemic," said board member Chris Heagerty.
Board member Dr. Jim Martin also expressed concern that students currently signed up for plan B would not be allowed to choose whether they would like to remain virtual.
The board split the decision for the reopening plan into four separate votes: bringing students in grades pre-K through 3 back into the classroom, keeping students in grades 4 and 5 remote, keeping students in grades 6 through 8 remote, and keeping high school students remote.
In a move against staff proposal, the board voted just after 9 p.m. to move grades 6 through 8 back into classrooms on a three-week rotation starting Nov. 9.
The board approved the decision in a 5-4 vote with Chair Sutton being the tiebreaker.
Shortly after, the board voted 8-1 for high school students grades 9 through 12 to remain in remote learning through the rest of the semester.
The board approved the plan to bring students in grades pre-K through 3 back into the classroom starting Oct. 26, with one abstention.