LEDGER – The 2019-2020 school year is over in North Carolina.
Gov. Roy Cooper announced at a news conference Friday that K-12 schools in North Carolina will remain closed for the rest of the school year as the state continues its battle with COVID-19.
The governor decided to cancel the rest of the school year after extending the state’s stay-at-home order until May 8 and unveiling a three-phase plan to reopen North Carolina at a Thursday, April 23, news conference.
Students were set to go back to school on May 15 but instead will continue remote learning from home.
“Closing schools for the remainder of the year was very sad,” said Chad Calhoun, superintendent of Mitchell County Schools. “We miss our students and wish we were back in school. I know this is a health and not an educational decision, though, and respect the decision. We look forward to the day we can get all students back in school.
Cooper praised teachers at his Thursday briefing for their ability to adapt.
“I am so proud of our teachers, teacher assistants, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, our parents, people who are working so hard to make sure that children can get as much remote learning as they can get,” he said.
Mitchell High School Principal Mark Woody said when he heard students would not return to school this year, the most disappointing part was knowing seniors have already had their last day of school at Mitchell.
“There are so many events that are held at school that have become a tradition for our seniors,” Woody said. “There are experiences that you look forward to having with students as they complete their high school careers with the administration, faculty and staff that we will not get to enjoy with this senior class.”
Harris teacher Stephanie Warren said students not returning to class not only affects her as a teacher but also as a parent.
“I have a senior and an eighth-grader,” Warren said. “There was so much in such a short amount of time. I think it was in one week they lost spring sports, they lost FBLA, eighth-grade prom and maybe even their eighth-grade graduation, we don’t know at this point. They lost pretty much a whole semester. And I think a lot of the focus has gone on seniors, obviously, but I think we forget about those eighth-graders. For some of these kids, they won’t play sports again. Some of those kids won’t make it to their junior year of high school for various reasons. So, I think in that week where everything was canceled pretty much, it was just one more thing after another. That was the hardest week I think I’ve ever taught.”
Draft legislation that would waive certain tests for this school year and allow school districts to start next school year as early as Aug. 17 is being sent to the House.
Mitchell County Schools Superintendent Chad Calhoun: “Educational opportunities by law have to be equitable. I knew with limited internet in some rural areas, this would be difficult to achieve. We have worked hard trying to get ‘Hotspots’ to send out to parents, staff and communities to give everyone access if possible. It would be challenging to assign grades this year with not everyone having the same opportunity with internet and remote access. Our teachers have done an excellent job preparing and delivering remote education. Our staff has also done an outstanding job feeding students and checking on their well-being. From what I am hearing from the Governor and the Department of Public Instruction, there could be many different things in place next year. Student safety has been and will always be the No. 1 priority. We will follow all guidelines recommended by our national, state and local health officials. We also will follow the educational plan that will be released by DPI soon to provide the best education possible for our students. Our students are our No. 1 priority and we love and miss them.”
Tracy Deyton, Mitchell High School: “Teachers are professionals at ‘making do.’ We make do without budgets or funding, materials, time, etc. But we’ve never had to make do without students in our classrooms. It is difficult to explain the emptiness and worry we feel. We never take lightly that for some of our kids’ school is the place where they feel most safe. That’s what keeps me awake at night. Are our kids safe? Are they fed? Seeing them every day is something I’ll never take for granted again, and we’re preparing for them to be back at school. That keeps us going.”
Ed Duncan, Mitchell High School: “It’s definitely historic. It’s disappointing to be living through such a unique period and not having a chance to talk about it with students. I’m optimistic we will come out of this with a strengthened sense of community and appreciation for the people around us who make up the daily fabric of our lives.”
Zack McCartha, Mitchell High School: “School closing for the remainder of the year was heartbreaking. The thought of not seeing my students in class again this year has been disappointing. I hate it for our seniors, in particular. Next school year can’t get here soon enough.”
Chris Hollifield, Harris Middle School: “For me, it was going to be my last class. So, it’s just been devastating thinking about everything I didn’t get to do with them.”
Sam Sirois, Harris Middle School: “It’s just that sense of completion and closure. This is the last chance that we’ll get to see them. We were so hoping to be able to come back, at least, for a couple of days or something before the end of the year to have that wrap up and that closure. And for me, I’m a very touchy-feely person; I’d hug them all before they go off to high school. And also, to celebrate everything they have done in middle school because they have accomplished a lot. It’s just tough. It’s so tough. And yes, we meet with them online, but it’s just not the same. It’s not the same interpersonal interaction. It’s just not the same.”