Painted rock in front of Pinecrest High School

Painted rock in front of Pinecrest High School. 

Classroom learning as North Carolina’s public school students know it won’t resume this school year, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Friday.

Cooper and state education officials outlined in a news conference plans to draw the current year to a close through distance learning and a grading policy designed to avoid penalizing students for the abrupt closure of school campuses on March 16.

"It's such a confusing time to be a child. And a hard time to be a parent, especially a working parent," Cooper said. "Today we've had to make another tough choice. We've decided to continue remote learning for the rest of the year for our K-12 schools.

“School classrooms may be closed, but the learning is not over. We don’t make these decisions lightly, but it is important to protect the health and safety of our students and school staff.”

Remote instruction will continue both online and through paper packets, much as it has since mid-March, until the scheduled end of the school year. Cooper previously declared schools closed until May 15 in response to the coronavirus crisis.

The last day for Moore County Schools currently is June 5.

Officials acknowledged the ongoing efforts of teachers, administrators and school support staff in keeping students engaged — and in some cases fed — despite campus closures.

“I’ve seen so many examples of creative teaching our educators are doing right now: music videos, carpool parades, online charades, checking in on students who need extra attention. It’s so comforting during these unprecedented times,” Cooper said.

State Board of Education Chairman Eric Davis said that teachers will continue to work, hourly employees are eligible to be paid, and that local school districts should “take full advantage of remote work.”

Moore County Schools’ ongoing “continuity of learning” plan requires teachers at all grade levels to contact all of their students or their parents at least twice a week. They’re also establishing two hours each day that they’re available for communication with parents and students.

Instruction, assignments and grading have continued in some form for middle and high school students, who have personal school-issued computers. Optional digital learning and paper packet materials are available for elementary students, who may or may not have computer access.

After the governor’s announcement on Friday, Moore County Schools Superintendent Bob Grimesey said that teachers and staff throughout the district will see out the transformed school year and begin planning for school to reconvene later this year.

“Our teachers will continue their diligent efforts to provide our students with remote learning opportunities that are the envy of most school districts across our state. Our child nutrition workers and transportation employees will continue to work with the Boys and Girls Club and our other community partners to sustain a student feeding program,” he said.

“Our counselors, social workers, psychologists and nurses will continue to reach out to our students and families to support their health, welfare and focus on learning.

“Our (information technology) support personnel and digital integration facilitators have worked tirelessly to expand our students' access to on-line learning and to support our teachers' ability to deliver those learning opportunities. Our maintenance and custodial staff will continue to use this time to advance the quality of our facilities. Our administrative staff members will continue to pay our bills, file our reports and meet our regulatory requirements.

“Our principals and our district-level leadership team will continue to plan for the ever-changing variables that will need to be addressed for that time when our students will return to our schools.”

No determination has been made on whether or not high school graduation ceremonies might still take place later in the summer. On Thursday, Cooper announced a plan to gradually relax restrictions if the state sees a decline in new coronavirus cases and related deaths. That plan involves lifting the cap on mass gatherings over time.

On Thursday, the State Board of Education approved spring semester grading guidelines stipulating that students should be promoted to the next grade level unless plans were already “well underway” to retain them on March 13.

For spring semester courses, high school students will receive the grade they held as of March 13, unless they improve it by the end of the year through remote learning. Students in grades nine through 11 will have the option of choosing a numerical grade, a simple “pass,” or withdraw with no credit for that course.

Seniors graduating this year will not see their grade point average affected by spring semester course grades, which will be issued on a pass/fail basis based on where they stood as of March 13. Students who weren’t passing on that date can still earn a passing grade through online learning to receive course credit. Otherwise, they’ll be withdrawn from the course and it won’t appear on their transcript.

For year-long courses, high school students’ grade point averages will be influenced based on their performance in the fall semester only.

Students also will have the option of receiving a passing grade for the semester, based on their course grade as of March 13. Students who were not passing as of that date will be able to raise their grade to a pass or a passing numeric grade. Otherwise, the course will not appear on their high school record.

The state board ruled on Thursday that elementary students won’t be receiving year-end grades at all. How they receive feedback from their teachers will be determined by each individual school district.

All middle school students who were passing their classes as of March 13 will receive a year-end passing grade. Students with less than a passing grade in any course at that point have until the end of the year to improve their grade through remote learning. Otherwise, they can withdraw — which won’t be considered the same as failing and won’t automatically result in being retained at their current grade level.

Middle school students taking high school level courses will have the same grading options as high school students with respect to those courses.

“No grading policy will completely address equity issues that exist across our state during these challenging times, especially when our educators cannot be physically present with their students each day and while many students struggle to access remote learning opportunities,” Davis said.

Cooper said that when and how students open this summer and fall for special programs, a potential “jump start” to help younger students catch up after this year’s disruption, and the fall semester, will “depend on meeting health guidelines that will be established later."

“Already we know that even the next school year will not be business as usual,” he said. “There will be new measures in place to protect health when school buildings open again next year. This pandemic will be with us for some time, but I have every confidence that we will find a way to get schools open safely in the new school year.”

Davis said that North Carolina’s public schools will “pivot” from a reactive position to continue providing services remotely and prepare to get students back into classrooms in late summer and fall. Some students may get an early start on the 2020-2021 school year, but specific plans will be ironed out later.

“That program is focused at this point on the early grades and on literacy, and depending on funding we hope to expand that opportunity to more grades and more students,” he said.

“Now, more than ever, we will guard and maintain the right of a sound basic education for every child in our North Carolina public schools. This public health crisis has necessitated innovation and educators throughout North Carolina have without hesitation answered this call.”

(9) comments

Kent Misegades

“Teachers also will remain working and school employees who work will continue to be paid.”. But there was a period of several weeks between school closure and when online classes started. Were teachers paid during this time when they had nothing to do? And what about the 40% of MCS adults who are not teachers? Have they been paid since schools were closed? How many MCS teachers and staff members have been furloughed? Why can’t the schools be re-opened in May and classes continued through the summer until the normal coursework is done and the 185-day annual school length law is fulfilled? Taxpayers, who have been severely impacted with massive new debt due to the new gold-plated schools, should not be expected to pay for MCS employees with no work. Why should it be any different for them as in the private sector? Don’t blame Cooper’s blanket edicts for fleecing Moore County taxpayers again. Unelected bureaucrats caused the mess we’re in and they should feel the consequences in their pocketbooks.

David Goldberg

it was two days between regular classes and and the start of online based learning for students. faculty continued to work those days and since then

Kent Misegades

If that is true then kudos to MCS. My neighbor and his wife, both MCS staffers, however spent most of their time since the shut down on their deck and boat before selling their $650k house and moving back to Boston.

Stephanie Auman

It is true, Kent. MCS turned on a dime and students began working on assignments beginning March 16th. We began prepping, creating, and implementing seamlessly and it is something all MCS employees have done without complaint. Instead of discounting the work we’re continuing to do, try talking to some of us. As an elementary teacher, and a parent with students in middle and high school, I might be able to answer some of your questions myself. We may not change your mind about how your tax dollars are being spent, but we can show you how we’re earning paychecks. And, I’d venture to say, you might crack a smile at what these students are successfully mastering.

Jim Tomashoff

Hate filled lunacy from our resident know-it-all. He's indicated that he will take a righteous stand and refuse to wear a face mask as a thump-in-the eye to the nanny state. The purpose of said mask isn't to protect the wearer, they're to protect others from your exhalations. By refusing to wear a mask you put others at risk of their lives. But it's quite obvious, given all his rants, that even knowing this Kent would refuse to wear a mask, he could care less if his actions kill others.

Kent Misegades

Jim, get informed for once. The county infection rate is 0.067%. Your vaunted California schools Stanford and USC have both studied infections and estimate the rate is 50-80 times higher than what has been measured. That puts Covid in the same range as the common flu, in terms of infection and mortality. Even the worst sufferers of TDS needs on occasion to look at the facts and find a backbone.

Kent Misegades

“Hate” - a word employed by enraged liberals who choose to ignore facts and refuse civil discourse, preferring childish name-calling and character assassination instead. Curable through the six-week Rush Limbaugh therapy: listen daily for six weeks. Try to prove him wrong, if you can. At the end you will be happier and wiser.

Jim Tomashoff

Utter lunacy from a far right-wing, racist, self-absorbed, tantrum thrower. Maybe it's time for Kent to follow his President's advise and chug down some bleach, stand real close to a flashlight, and get some Lysol intravenously. And as for his hero, Limbaugh, as Kent probably knows, asserted that Covid-19 is so named because it's the 19th Covid virus doctors have identified. Then he goes on to say, as does Kent, all the time, that the world's reactions are over-the-top due to liberals, bureaucrats, and people in lab coats, i.e. doctors (the top three of Kent's enemies list). Rush suggests, hinting at a conspiracy, that doctors should already know how to treat this because they've had 18 other examples of Covid to deal with. In fact, Kent, it is called Covid-19 because it was identified toward the end of 2019. Oops! You're both imbeciles.

Jim Tomashoff

In a comment found below Kent accuses me of "character assassination." Kent, I can't possibly assassinate your character as well as you do to yourself each time you write your comments.

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