Wake County students have trouble social distancing during lunchtime, school board says

CARY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Board members for the Wake County Public School System met Tuesday afternoon to discuss further reopening plans and to update one another on how the return of in-person learning has been progressing. The meeting comes as some K-3 students returned to classroom learning on October 26 and middle school students resumed physical learning on Monday.

Duke pediatrician Dr. Danny Benjamin addressed board members with detailed COVID-19 information and the risk students carry in spreading and transmitting the virus.

Dr. Benjamin told the board it was "likely" WCPSS could experience a cluster, as detailed by five linked cases or more in a given area, when more students return. In addition, the pediatrician said schools should also expect to see close to one case of COVID-19 per school per week, based on a mathematical calculation.

"What I heard was very clearly, keep with the 3 W's," said board member Dr. Jim Martin. "We're pretty good on washing and wearing masks. Plan A compromises the distance issue."

Under Plan A, students are allowed to attend classes five days per week, though all students have to wear face coverings at all times and stay at least six feet apart. Currently, only elementary schools are allowed to utilize this option in North Carolina under guidance from Gov. Roy Cooper.

WATCH: 6,000 Wake County middle schoolers attend first day of classes
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The carpool line looks a little different at Wake County middle schools for the first day of class.

Dr. Benjamin and the board noted how students have been having difficulty respecting social distancing, particularly at lunch time.

RELATED: Wake County demonstrates COVID-19 screening procedures all students will undergo before returning to class

Board members spent their work session debating if the return of more in-person learners would lead to the same number of COVID-19 cases, fewer cases, or more cases.

In the spring semester, parents of Virtual Academy students who elected not to continue with remote learning will be sending their children back to a physical classroom.

One board member said she was unsure if parents were aware of class size. "I don't think (parents) are clear that they are coming back with 18 or 19 kids in the classroom," said the board member. "Some of them are confused about 50 percent Virtual Academy, even though allotments are there too and they're confused. There are parents who are thinking, 'Oh wait, I didn't put these numbers together and maybe I don't want my child to come back to school.'"

The school board's next meeting is Nov 17.
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