Students in the Nash County Public School System will start back school online on August 17.
The Nash County Board of Education voted on Wednesday night to start the school year virtually for a few weeks before slowly merging into a more hybrid plan that would combine remote learning with in-person learning.
The vote was not unanimous, however. Board members Reggie Silver and Lank Dunton voted against the plan recommended by Superintendent Dr. Steve Ellis.
Ellis said students being in the building was at the top of their mind when working on the plan for returning to school.
"When kids aren't in a building, it's different," Ellis said.
However, the safety and comfort of staff and students was also a priority.
A committee was put together that included community partners, board members and parents and surveys were sent out for both parents and teachers.
Ellis said 70 percent of teachers said they were comfortable with the plan for remote learning.
The percentages were more even under the hybrid model, Plan B, with 41 percent saying they were comfortable coming back with 50 percent of students while 40 percent said they were uncomfortable. Nineteen percent were undecided.
Ellis said remote learning would start for Early College High School and CITI High School Students on August 6 while others would start on August 17. The first 20 days would be for orientation and open houses. There would also be a staggered schedule during this time.
"We feel like since it's the start of a new year, students and parents would feel more comfortable meeting their teacher," Ellis said.
Ellis said that 20-day period would also give teachers a chance to get more comfortable with everything.
Ellis said the if metrics were good, the transition into Plan B, which would include both remote learning and in-person learning, could start as early as September 8. However, Ellis added the most vulnerable populations, including pre-K students and EC students, would be the first group to start the phase in process of returning to in-person learning.
"We would like to try to start our Plan B transition slowly and bring some of those kids back in the building," Ellis said.
Ellis said under the hybrid model his biggest issue is transportation. Due to the buses having to space out students, only 22 kids would be allowed on a bus at a time.
"The big issue right now I'm having is transportation, how I'm going to put the kids on buses," Ellis said.
Under the hybrid plan, students would be broken up in two different tracts, or cohorts and would go to school on different days. On days students are home, they are doing remote learning.
The option for Virtual Academy is still available, where students would be able to choose an all virtual learning experience during the entire fall semester and if they were still uncomfortable returning to school, they could continue with Virtual Academy during the spring semester.
Board Member Evelyn Bulluck said while she was in favor of remote learning, she questioned returning to school in person so soon.
"I'm a little apprehensive about three weeks," Bulluck said. "I think September 8 is too early. I think we need a longer time period. I don't want to have people thinking one thing and then the numbers are not good and we, in wisdom, should not bring kids back in three weeks."
"I would much prefer we have a nine-week period before we even tell anyone we're going to bring the kids back," Bulluck added. "I don't want to give folks false hope."
Ellis assured Bulluck that if the metrics were not right, in person learning would not happen.
"If they don't change, I promise you we won't go back," he said. "We just want to have a plan to move those kids."