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Select groups to return to school Monday

Charlotte County Public Schools (CCPS) will offer in-person instruction in a hybrid manner to a select group of grades beginning Monday, Oct 5.

According to CCPS Superintendent Robbie Mason the decision to offer hybrid in-person learning to select grades was done due to the number of decreased COVID-19 cases seen the past few weeks in the county and because the selected groups represent the school system’s most vulnerable learners.

Beginning Monday, Oct. 5 the following groups will begin hybrid in-person instruction: pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, sixth grade, ninth grade, special education students (all grade levels), and English language learners (all grade levels).

“These groups were selected to attend in-person beginning Oct. 5 because they represent our most vulnerable learners and will benefit most from starting two weeks earlier than other groups,” Mason said. “Allowing sixth graders and ninth graders to acclimate to their new schools without other students being present will help them tremendously with their transition.”

All other grade levels will begin hybrid, in-person instruction Monday, Oct. 19.

These students will continue with remote instruction until that date.

Students returning on both October 5 and October 19 will attend school in-person two days per week according to their last name. Unless other arrangements have been made through the school principal, students with last names beginning with “A” through “J” will attend school in-person on Mondays and Tuesdays while students with last names beginning with “K” through “Z” will attend school in-person on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

All students will participate in remote learning from home on Fridays. Parents who want their children to continue with remote instruction, and not attend in-person, may continue to do so.

In the beginning of September, the county saw its first pediatric case of COVID-19 which caused the school system to push back its in-person start date.

Since that time, cases have declined. On Monday, Sept. 28, according to Piedmont Health District Director Dr. Robert Nash, Charlotte County was reporting no pediatric cases.

“Pediatric rates appear to be decreasing throughout the district,” Nash said.

Mason said CCPS will continue to work with the Piedmont Health District to stay up to date on cases. If a school has a student or staff member with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, notification letters will be sent home to parents of students in that school.

“If and when we have positive COVID-19 cases with students and/or staff in our schools, our response will range from home isolation for the infected person or people to schools having to be closed for a while,” Mason said. “These decisions will be made in conjunction with the Piedmont Health District and through the contact tracing process.”

Mason further stressed that parents need to consider their childcare options in advance should individual schools have to be closed for a period of time due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

“Such closures may occur quickly, if so advised by local health officials,” he said.

When CCPS students return, face coverings will be required on all CCPS buses and in buildings.  “Parents are asked to ensure that students have masks with them when they leave home,” Mason said.

Flexibility for wearing masks may be provided by school officials when social distancing can be maintained.

According to Mason, parents of students who are not able to wear a face-covering for medical reasons will be required to provide their child’s school with documentation from a physician. “Mask-wearing is required to help keep our students and staff safe” Mason said. “In addition to wearing masks, students will undergo a health screening by their teacher upon arrival at school.”

Any student who has COVID-19-related symptoms or a temperature more than 100 degrees will be isolated and a parent will be called to pick that child up from school. It is critical that parents check their child’s temperature and symptoms before the child leaves for school in the morning.

Children should not be sent to school with a fever or any symptoms (sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, runny nose, chills, headache, cold-like symptoms, vomiting, or diarrhea).

Because school buses will begin transporting students on Oct. 5, at-home meal delivery for students will not take place after Thursday, October 1. Meals will continue to be available for fully remote learners at any school on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.