Although there are no indications that the recent spike in COVID-19 cases will force the Caldwell County Schools to revert to remote learning, in case that happens school officials are discussing contingency plans in hopes of avoiding the confusion caused by the sudden switch to remote learning last March.
It’s hard to plan more than a few weeks ahead because of the time it takes for test results to return and for trends in the community spread to become apparent, Superintendent Dr. Don Phipps said. This is forcing school officials to discuss action plans for scenarios that aren’t on the table yet.
“We have a luxury of time right now to plan ahead that we didn’t have in March,” when Gov. Roy Cooper ordered all schools in the state to halt in-person classes for the rest of the school year, he said. “But realistically we can only look two or three weeks out, and things continue to change every day.”
The Caldwell County Board of Education heard multiple reports this week that were presented in the event that action becomes necessary. In one dealing with a return to all-remote learning, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Bill Griffin said that when schools went all-remote last March, the school system had the benefit of a special paid leave program from the state that covered the full salaries of any employees whose responsibilities were halted by remote learning from March until June.
“Because we ride on the backs of our students. Everything that our personnel across the county does relies on students. When they don’t show up — when they’re not there in that physical classroom — we have to alter what we do,” he said.
Without students coming into class, there are many positions whose job duties change completely.
“Our custodians — those kids aren’t there to tear down every single day what they build up every day,” he said. “Our bus drivers don’t have kids to go pick up. Our bus garage, our mechanics who are working on buses that aren’t running, their job duties change.”
But that state program is gone now, so school officials need to consider what could be done, he said.
“Every time we meet, there’s something new that’s been added to analyze and try to figure out what’s best for our students,” he said. “But we can’t see the future, can’t see tomorrow, can’t see even three weeks down the road.”
The school board will meet again Monday at 6 p.m. A livestream of the meeting will be available on the Caldwell County Schools YouTube channel.
Reporter Garrett Stell can be reached at 828-610-8723.