Mask requirement extended at Clay County Schools

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clay county school mask requirement meeting

HAYESVILLE, NC: At the called meeting on September 7, the Clay County Board of Education decided to continue the mask mandate until the COVID-19 numbers decrease.

The decision was unanimous.

The board will review the policy every month. NC General Assembly issued two policy options for school systems regarding masks, but one must be approved every month. Option A is a mask mandate, and option B is guidelines for mask optional protocols.

Superintendent Dale Cole recommended the mask requirement continue for the time due to COVID-19 numbers.

The original mandate was initiated on August 18. 

The first three weeks of classes indicated COVID-19 quarantines have almost every week. Children’s positive cases grew significantly week over week, with 17 positive students on week one, 26 week two, and 45 week three. Staff positive cases have remained constant for the time being at three total.

graph of COVID-19 data at Clay County Schools

Superintendent Cole explains the cumulative COVID-19 numbers.

The schools did rework their lunchroom protocol and seating to prevent possible exposures during lunchtime. As of week three, 74 students were exposed during lunch.

In the high school, 77 students (over 20 percent) were in quarantine. The middle school has 60 in quarantine.

Teachers have expressed the difficulty of teaching students remotely and in person, and some feel that masks are necessary right now. However, all enjoy being back in the classroom with students and instructing face to face.

Additionally, the board approved the recommendation to let the superintendent shut down a school or make it virtual without calling a board of education meeting. The measure deals specifically with a public health emergency.

“As long as we have staff available…we can have school for 10 kids if that’s all we have. The problem is when we don’t have the staff to monitor the safety of the students,” Superintendent Cole explained.

Cole feels like having school virtual is better than not having school at all. Virtual might be the best option for specific situations if a teacher can work while in quarantine.

The majority of substitutes are older and are unsure about entering a school system during the pandemic. Additionally, each school typically needs a certain amount of substitutes each day on a typical day.

Clay County Board of Education members sworn in

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board of education members sworn in

HAYESVILLE, NC – The two reelected board of education members, Danny Jones and Reba Beck took their oath of office during the December 14, 2020 meeting.

District Court Judge Tessa Sellers administered the oath. Jones and Beck swore to uphold the Constitution of the Unites States and North Carolina. They also promised to uphold their offices as board of education members.

Superintendent Dale Cole attended the meeting virtually after being advised to quarantine by the health department.

Meeting business

Cole thanked the Clay County Historical and Arts Council for bringing culture and enlightenment to students.

The school district is also looking to consolidate technology used between teachers and parents by moving to Edlio Engage App. It’s a source of two-way communication between teachers, parents, and students. Edlio can also translate from English to Spanish, eliminating some of the lost in translation issues. A new website is also in development to provide a more user-friendly experience for visitors.

The board implemented a new school mental-health policy that was required by the state. The focus of the policy is on the whole child, not just education, but physical, mental, environmental, and education. The district previously hired four counselors for each school and a social worker. With the extra stressors of 2020, students greatly benefited from having counselors to speak with.

Watch the meeting here:

Clay County Students will attend classes two days a week

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HAYESVILLE, N.C. – Clay County Schools have opted for a two cohort model once students return to class for the 2020-2021 year.

All schools except for the pre-k will follow an A/B schedule. Students will be broken into two groups. The A group will go to school on Monday and Tuesday while the B group attends class on Thursday and Friday. Wednesday will be a virtual learning day for students and a deep cleaning day at the school.

Parents and guardians can also select to place their children in entirely online learning.

At Hayesville Primary, elementary, and middle schools the teachers will change classes, not the students. Hayesville High School (HHS) students will be switching classes because the majority, 43.9 percent of parents voted for that option.

Homes with multiple school-age children will have those children placed in the same cohort so they can attend school on the same days. Cohorts will consist of 150 to 200 students.

School survey responses from parents and teachers.

With the two day model, students can receive two days of attending all their 90-minute learning blocks in a controlled environment. They also have access to all school amenities including teachers, high-speed internet, counseling, and tech support.

This model isn’t the safest option due to the potential exposure of 150 to 200 students twice a week. It also places the heaviest load on teachers who must create lessons for in-person and remote children.

Schools will release information about which Clay County students will be in Cohort A and Cohort B on Wednesday, August 5 at 4:00. Students in Cohort A will attend each week on Monday and Tuesday beginning August 17. Students in Cohort B will attend each week on Thursday and Friday beginning August 20.

33 percent of parents selected fully remote learning in the return to school survey.

As for faculty, 45 percent of HHS staff were in favor of fully remote, and 30 percent chose the two cohort model.

If the school or county reaches a five percent COVID-19 infection rate, a decision will be made about closing the school buildings again. Currently, Clay County is at a less than one percent infection rate.

All students attending in-person classes will always be required to wear a mask with scheduled outdoor breaks. Faculty and students will be given five masks from the state. They must wash masks at home and can decorate the masks.

During break times, students will separate and safely remove their masks. They won’t be allowed to congregate in groups at any time during the school day. Students will always be sat six feet apart.

Remote learning children will be locked into the program for five weeks at a time. Parents must contact the school by September 11 if they wish to transition their child back into in-person instruction. Students can switch from in-person to remote at any time. In both instances, the principal must be notified ahead of time.

The Pre-K school will be fully open five days a week.

Clay County Schools Superintendent Dale Cole reviewed this model with stakeholders and the Clay County Health Department and all felt comfortable moving forward with this model.

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