By Michelle Wagner | Outer Banks Voice on January 7, 2021
The Currituck County Board of Education unanimously voted on Jan. 7 to return the district’s high school students to the classroom beginning on Jan. 25. They have been learning remotely since the start of the COVID pandemic last March.
Students in the upper grades will return under a hybrid model, joining Currituck middle and elementary school students who have had the option of hybrid classroom learning since last fall. Superintendent Matt Lutz said that approximately 80 percent of the students at the Currituck High School and the JP Knapp Early College have indicated they will return to in-person learning.
Under the plan, high school students also have the option to remain in full-time remote learning.
Lutz, during his presentation, told board members that as of Jan. 7, a total of 155 staff members have received the COVID-19 vaccine. Additionally, he said there have been four teachers at Currituck High who cannot return to in-person learning because of health concerns as well as one teacher at JP Knapp. Those teachers will be able teach live from home with lessons streamed into the classroom.
Lutz told board members that the district would likely bring students, by grade, back into the building for a few hours on different days during the week of Jan. 19 for a “soft start.”
He also noted that members of the high school leadership team had a number of questions about returning students, particularly related to logistical issues such as protocols for changing classes. “And there certainly is a lot of anxiety and concern and rightfully so. That’s where we are at in these times,” Lutz said.
In reviewing the COVID-19 safety protocols that will be instituted, Lutz said students in the lower grades have eagerly complied with the requirement of face coverings. “Students are happy to be back in the building and more than happy to wear those cloth face coverings,” he stated.
Under the state’s Plan B hybrid model, six feet of social distancing must be maintained at all times within the building and on the school buses. Lutz, acknowledging that transportation is a challenge and double runs may have to be made, said that there is a 24-student limit on buses with one student per seat unless students are family members.
Regarding quarantine protocols, Lutz asserted, “When our staff, students and community follow our safety protocols both in and out of school, things run much smoother. When we are not having large group gatherings, we are doing what we are asked to do, we are able to provide in-person instruction, we are able to provide some sense of a return to normalcy as much as possible.”
When those guidelines aren’t followed, he said, “We run into quarantining issues where we have to have a large number of students or significant number of staff go under quarantine because they’ve been exposed.”
According to Albemarle Regional Health Services, Currituck County has thus far reported a total of 750 COVID cases, with 330 active cases and 11 deaths.
Lutz also offered kudos to Currituck County families and staff for their flexibility throughout the school year. “We have made changes rather swiftly and I think we’ve become quite nimble at our approach to learning and adjusting,” the superintendent said. “One of the things we have learned throughout this pandemic is that we can pivot immediately into online learning if we need to.”