MCS staying on track, focusing on safe in-person learning


LEDGER —  With positive COVID-19 cases continuing to rise in the region and neighboring counties closing schools, the Mitchell County School System is continuing on the same path. 

At the Board of Education’s regular meeting on Thursday, Dec. 10, Mitchell County Schools Superintendent Chad Calhoun said the county has done well so far and intends to keep kids in school. 

“We probably need to knock on wood, but we’ve done very well in Mitchell County,” he said. “We have not had to close a classroom. We have not had to close a school.”

While the school system has had some positive tests for both students and staff, as well as several people in quarantine, Calhoun noted the school system has not had any spread within the schools themselves. 

“If we make it six more days, we went an entire semester without school spread,” Calhoun said. “In other words, we have not had a student or a staff member contract COVID, based on the contact tracing through the health department and our nurses, at school. 

“If they’ve gotten a positive or come in contact with someone and had to quarantine, it has come from outside school.”

Calhoun credits that success to the staff, students and parents for taking proper precautions and following the guidelines. 

“I’m very thankful for our teachers, our custodians, our bus drivers and everything that they do,” he said. “It’s our intent to keep kids in school and keep them safe and keep them healthy and I do attribute that to students following directions, staff doing what they’re supposed to be doing and our school nurses, bus drivers and custodians working their hindlegs off cleaning and doing a good job with that.”

The superintendent did recognize they have had a few occasions in which parents have sent their child to school with a fever, but added they had been fortunate to catch the sick students before sending them to class. He went on to urge parents to screen their children before sending them to school. 

“We’d love for parents, please, if you have a positive family member that a student has been around, don’t send them to school,” he said. “I know we’ve had a few instances of that where parents have sent kids to school that also had a fever. Please check that. Especially if you’re putting them on a bus. We depend on you to check their fever before they get on the bus and before they come to school.”

Due to North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s current order regarding schools, seventh through 12th grade students are unable to attend in-person classes each day of the week and are currently on A/B days. Currently, Group A attends in-person classes on Mondays and Tuesdays, Group B attends in-person classes on Wednesdays and Thursdays and Fridays are remote learning days for both groups.

Calhoun said the school is looking at altering that schedule next semester to have kids in school on Fridays. He said they may implement an A/B week, instead. 

According to Calhoun, the first week, Group A would be back Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and Group B would be Thursday and Friday. The next week, it would “flip” and Group A would be Monday and Tuesday and Group B would be Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

“It gains everybody another day every other week, so they would be back in school a little bit more until the governor relinquishes those restrictions,” he said. “Hopefully that will go very well.”

Calhoun reiterated how proud he is of the school system for doing well thus far, even as the community spread in Mitchell County continues to worsen.

“There’s a lot of cases in the community and unfortunately a lot of deaths in the community,” Calhoun said. “But, as far as our school staff and our students, we’re doing a very good job with COVID up to this point and we hope to continue.”