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News from the Board -- September 29, 2020Posted by Jessica Coston on 10/2/2020 12:00:00 PM
On Tuesday, September 29, the Onslow County Board of Education held a special meeting at the Eastern North Carolina Regional Skills Center. Agenda items included a closed session for personnel, a Return to Learn update, the presentation of the resiliency retention reward, next steps for the ENCRSC, and a word on the Onslow County Public Bike Trail.
The meeting began with a 45-minute closed session, during which the Board performed the performance review of Superintendent Dr. Barry Collins. Following the session, Chair Pam Thomas shared that the Board is happy with the work that Dr. Collins and his staff are doing and that they are proud to have him as superintendent.
Next on the agenda was an update on the district’s Return to Learn plan from Deputy Superintendent Dr. Beth Folger. Dr. Folger shared the plans for implementing Plan A, explaining what will change from Plan B when students return full time. The biggest difference between Plans A and B, she said, is a shift from mandatory, moderate social distancing in Plan B to minimal social distancing, to the greatest extent possible, in Plan A. She also shared that the shift to Plan A would keep intact options for families who feel uncomfortable sending their child back to fuller classrooms. On October 16, the current “double remote” option that some families have been using will expire, and those families, as well as those that have been sending their children for part time in-person through Cohort A or B, will have the opportunity to transfer their students to Onslow Virtual School. Plans to allow OVS students to transition back to their home schools are under development.
Following Dr. Folger’s presentation, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Hollamon addressed the Board to present a proposed Resiliency Retention Reward. This measure would allow for a one-time $350 bonus for certified and non-certified permanent salaried staff and hourly paid bus drivers, bus monitors, and school nutrition employees with a daily work assignment who are employed in pay status as of October 1, 2020. Employees who work on an intermittent or substitute basis are ineligible. This payment, which would be made on October 30, would work to retain staff and recognize the valuable contributions from all aspects of our team to support our students which have been made under extremely challenging conditions. The Board unanimously approved.
Next, Chief Operations Officer Steve Myers took to the microphone to share with the Board and audience some of the plans in store for the unfinished parts of the ENCRSC. The upstairs portion of the building consists of 13,500 sq ft of unfinished space that Myers said could serve the district well as it searches for additional office space and professional development venues. The space, he said, could be used to provide the newly formed Onslow Virtual School with additional office space for staff, testing spaces, PD rooms, additional space for CTE, and more. The upfitting of the space would cost around $1.1 million, which was already accounted for in the original ENCRSC project. The project, Myers said, would be completed in a way that would allow for simple changes and rearrangements if the district’s needs for the space should change. Once started, the project would take 6-8 months tom complete.
Last on the agenda was a brief presentation from Assistant County Manager Ben Warren on the upcoming Onslow County public bike trail. Warren said that the trail would take advantage of areas of the county not suitable for development, namely wetlands, including some of the land behind the ENCRSC, which is owned by the Board of Education. The trail would be built in phases and would become a valuable asset for the community by providing opportunities for leisure activities and competitive races in both mountain biking and cross country running. Board Chair Pam Thomas said she and the Board look forward to working with the county to provide part of the space for the coming trail.
News from the Board -- September 21, 2020Posted by Jessica Coston on 9/22/2020 3:30:00 PM
On Monday, September 21, the Onslow county Board of Education held a special meeting at the Eastern North Carolina Regional Skills Center. Agenda items included a discussion on the Return to Learn plan.
Superintendent Dr. Barry Collins opened the meeting by reminding attendees of the decision made by Governor Roy Cooper on September 17. This decision would allow local school districts in North Carolina the flexibility to transition K-5 students to Plan A, no earlier than October 5, if they choose.
Dr. Collins shared with the Board three Plan A transition plans created by OCS staff that he said he felt were doable and would work for Onslow County. Each option, he said, would allow for a safe and gradual return to the classroom for elementary students.
Option 1 would have Kindergarten through 3rd grade return to school Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday on October 5. Fourth and 5th grade would return Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday on October 19. During the period of October 5-19, Wednesdays would continue to be remote learning days for students and used for cleaning, planning and professional development for staff. On October 26, all students grades K-5 would return to school full-time, Monday-Friday.
Option 2 would have Kindergarten return to school M, T, Th and F on October 5, 1st grade on October 12, 2nd grade on October 19, 3rd grade on October 26, 4th grade on November 2, and 5th grade on November 9. During the period of October 5-November 16, Wednesdays would continue to be remote learning days for students and used for cleaning, planning and professional development for staff. On November 16, all students grades K-5 would return to school full-time, Monday-Friday.
Option 3 would have Kindergarten and 1st grade return to school M, T, Th and F on October 5, 2nd and 3rd grades on October 19, and 4th and 5th grades on November 2. During the period of October 5-November 16, Wednesdays would continue to be remote learning days for students and used for cleaning, planning and professional development for staff. On November 16, all students grades K-5 would return to school full-time, Monday-Friday.
In a brief word from Assistant County Manager Sheri Slater, Board members were assured that the Onslow County Health Department was proud of the work OCS was doing to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community and that the numbers in Onslow County are still under control.
Board members and staff had a lengthy discussion on the presented options and all factors that needed to be considered in making this important decision. Discussion centered around staff and student safety, feasibility for classroom implementation and logistics, and the length of time Wednesdays would continue to be reserved for deep cleaning and instructional planning.
After much discussion, it was determined by the Board that Option 3 would be the best course of action, as it allowed for a more gradual return to the classroom for the county’s youngest students. The Board, however, did choose to slightly amend the option before approval, extending the time that Wednesdays would be used for deep cleaning and planning until after students return from Thanksgiving break on November 30. The Board unanimously approved this decision.
News from the Board -- September 1, 2020Posted by Jessica Coston on 9/2/2020 4:45:00 PM
The Onslow County Board of Education held its regular monthly meeting on September 1, 2020 at the Eastern North Carolina Regional Skills Center. Agenda items for this meeting included a census presentation, a scholarship report and a Return-to-Learn update.
After 3 speakers during the first public comment period, the meeting’s general business was started with a presentation from OCS Chief Communications Officer Brent Anderson regarding the 2020 Census. Anderson shared with the Board and audience information about the census and Onslow County’s progress in gathering responses from residents. As of August 31, only 54.7 percent of Onslow County’s residents had responded to the 2020 Census, leaving around 90,000 uncounted. This, Anderson said, could result in the loss of $1.7 billion in funding for the county over the coming decade. The deadline to complete the 2020 census is September 30, and Anderson said that he and his communications staff will be increasing their efforts to educate families about the importance of the census and how to respond.
Next, Anderson shared with the Board a report of scholarship figures from the 2019-2020 school year. The report showed a total of $19,495,972.87 in offered scholarship funds for last year’s seniors. Anderson said that, due to COVID-19 and the difficulty of collecting information from families last spring, scholarship numbers were down from previous years.
Last on the agenda was an update on the district’s Return to Learn.
Superintendent Dr. Barry Collins opened the update by saying that after the first 12 days of the year, he is proud of the work executive staff, teachers, and all support staff have done to ensure a safe and efficient return to school. While everything has not been perfect, he said, he feels that each day has been better than the last and that OCS is in a good place. Dr. Collins shared three things that he would like to encourage state leaders to consider as schools continue to respond to the challenges of COVID-19: 1. ADM funding needs to remain in place at the projected levels; 2. Principal salaries need to be held harmless for this school year; and 3. K-3 class size mandates should be eliminated for virtual schools this year.
The next part of the update was a brief presentation from OCS Coordinator of Athletics Greg Grantham, who informed the Board on potential changes on the way for athletics and physical education classes. Grantham shared that, with the governor’s announcement of the move to Phase 2.5 of North Carolina’s reopening plan, he is hopeful that this could mean fewer restrictions on school’s usage of locker room and weight room facilities.
Following a short video presentation on the reopening of school facilities, Anderson provided the Board and audience with information on the district’s communication procedures, as it relates to COVID-19. He shared that district staff have been working closely with families and the Onslow County Health Department to conduct contact tracing and ensure that no one with a potential exposure to COVID-19 is in OCS facilities. In the event of a positive COVID-19 case associated with a school facility, Anderson said that the contact tracing process begins immediately and that those identified as close contacts are contacted by both the school and the health department to ensure they know to stay at home. To protect the privacy of staff and families, Anderson said that, unless COVID cases at a school cause a significant disruption to a school’s ability to safely operate or deliver instruction, only those identified as close contacts will be notified.
Anderson took this opportunity to remind everyone that self-monitoring and screenings are our first defense against COVID-19, saying that “Healthy Schools Start at Home.” He encouraged everyone to remember to stay home if they are feeling ill, practice the three W’s (wear, wash and wait), and do their part to maintain the health of our school communities.
The meeting concluded with a single speaker in the final public comment period.