Contributed by Bladen County Schools
The Bladen County Schools’ Board of Education has released its’ plan to begin the 2020-2021 school year for students and staff. During a special called meeting on July 23, the Board approved the plan presented by Superintendent Robert Taylor.
The district will open with remote-only learning for students beginning August 17. All remote learning will be required and offer rigor and opportunities equal to what students experience on campus. School districts across North Carolina, including Bladen County, implemented this scenario in spring 2020. Bladen County Schools have continued to refine its remote teaching and learning practices since and are ready and prepared to make this transition. The district’s goal is to transition back to full in-person teaching and learning as soon as it is safe to do so.
This decision to move from an A/B schedule in PreK-4 grades and remote-only in grades 5-12 to now implementing remote-only learning in all grade levels was made based on the guidance the district has received from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the North Carolina Governor’s Office, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (DPI), and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS). Moreover, issues surrounding safety, funding, transportation, staffing, and logistics created unprecedented challenges.
Remote-only learning will be carried out across all grade levels. The district will expect students to participate in virtual classes based on the guidelines set by each teacher. Remote learning will occur asynchronously and be conducted Mondays through Fridays. Teachers will maintain virtual classroom office hours between 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., allowing students and parents to communicate with them as needed during those times. Teachers will be remotely teaching from their classrooms and other appropriate locations, ensuring equity and fidelity for all students. Student attendance will be monitored and students will receive a report card at the end of the quarter.
The following timeline will be followed but, is subject to change based on the current conditions within the county and the state. In like manner, the governor can at any time change the phase of reopening or closing for the state.
August 10 – Teachers and staff report to work
August 17 – First day of remote learning for PreK-12 grade students
September 14 – Contingent upon state and local conditions and further guidance from the state, the following instructional plan is that blended learning for PreK-4 grade students will come back to the school campus or remote learning continues based on parent request. All other grade levels will remain on remote learning. The schedule would be as follows:
- A group – Mondays and Tuesdays
- Both groups remote learning – Wednesdays
- B group – Thursdays and Fridays
October 5 – Same as above with the addition of 5-8 grade students coming back to the school campus or remote learning based on parent request
October 23 – Same as above with the addition of 9-12 grade students coming back to the school campus or remote learning based on parent request
To help ensure students can fully engage in remote learning, the district will provide laptops for those in K-12 grades who do not have reliable access to a computer at home. The annual $20 laptop user fee normally required to be paid by parents is being waived for this school year. Parents will still be required to sign a laptop user contract and will be responsible for damages incurred during the school year. Laptops will be deployed at both the middle and high schools the week before school starts; elementary schools will deploy on the first two days of school. Parents must be present to pick-up a laptop for their child. Schools will contact parents with specific details regarding deployment and pick-up.
The following schedule will be followed for dates and times of laptop deployment:
- Monday, August 10 from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. at East Bladen, West Bladen, and Bladen Early College high schools (freshmen only – students in grades 10-12 have their laptop as they kept them over the summer)
- Tuesday, August 11 from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. at East Bladen and West Bladen high schools (freshmen only – students in grades 10-12 have their laptop as they kept them over the summer)
- Wednesday, August 12 from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. at all middle schools
- Thursday, August 13 from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. at all middle schools
- Monday, August 17 from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m at all elementary schools
- Tuesday, August 18 from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. at all elementary schools
The district is also exploring options for securing additional Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the county for students so that they have the tools needed to learn remotely. Recently, the district received four hotspot devices thanks to donations from AT&T, Google, and Duke Energy Foundation. The BCS Technology department will be working to identify areas within the county where students are experiencing a connectivity gap and install those devices.
Currently, there are external Wi-Fi hotspots at Bladen Lakes Primary, Bladenboro Middle, Clarkton School of Discovery, East Arcadia Elementary, East Bladen High School, Tar Heel Middle, and West Bladen High School.
Additionally, the BCS Child Nutrition and Transportation departments will provide meals to children daily similar to the summer feeding program. School feeding sites will operate preparing breakfast and lunch meals for students either by curbside pick-up or bus delivery.
Although students will be engaged in remote learning in the short term, the district has a plan for welcoming back students and staff into its buildings once it is safe to do so.
The Bladen County Schools district has established a web page where families and community members can learn more about the reopening plan and the remote learning model that will be used to start the school year. To access the page, visit www.bladen.k12.nc.us.