Buncombe County Schools plan return to in-person school

Press release from Buncombe County Schools:

We have some important updates to share with you regarding the 2021-22 school year.

First, we want to clarify that we will begin the school year with in-person learning, 5 days a week. The first day for students is August 23. At this time, we will not offer synchronous remote learning (“Plan C”) as we did last school year. However, the BCS Virtual Academy could be a good fit for your family. More information about this opportunity can be found at virtual.buncombeschools.org.

Masks and Face Coverings Indoors

During the August 5 special-called board meeting, our school board members voted that masks for staff and students will be required in grades K-13. Students and staff may opt-out of mask-wearing if they volunteer to provide proof of a COVID-19 vaccination. The board has also asked school administrators to recommend metrics that would be used to consider making masks optional as the health situation in our area changes. Additionally, coaches and participants in indoor sports must wear masks in practice but would have the option to lower them during intense practice activities and while participating in athletic contests.

Face coverings on buses and other school transportation will be required as this is a federal mandate. Our bus routes will run on a more normal schedule with buses able to operate at full capacity.

Face coverings outside will be optional.

We will continue to coordinate with Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) for contact tracing and case investigation. This process will look different this year. Specifically, if there is a COVID positive case identified in a student, if both the infectious student and their close student contacts were wearing their masks correctly throughout the day, the close student contact may not have to quarantine (this will be determined on a case-by-case basis). Additionally, a student or staff who volunteers to provide their COVID-19 vaccination status when named a close contact may not have to quarantine.

Other safety measures:

  • We have improved our air ventilation procedures in our schools and upgraded all of our air filters.
  • Classrooms and high-touch areas will be cleaned and disinfected regularly.
  • We will work to ensure as much physical distancing as possible throughout our buildings. Specifically, in common areas such as the cafeteria, there will be staggered seating where possible. Other areas in the building and outside will also be utilized for meals. Also, a reminder that breakfast and lunch will be FREE for all students for this upcoming school year.
  • Students and staff will continue to practice healthy handwashing and hand-sanitizing habits throughout the day.
  • While there won’t be required health screenings for staff and students to enter the building, we continue to ask parents to monitor their children for symptoms of COVID-19 and if they feel ill, they should stay home.
  • BCS will continue to work with BCHHS in encouraging vaccinations among our students and staff who are ages 12 and up. Visit buncombeready.org for more information.
  • There are other safety measures that will be in-place in our schools. You’ll be able to find out more at upcoming back-to-school orientation events.

In closing, we are looking forward to a brand new school year, face-to-face. We will be focused on learning and addressing any educational challenges our students may have faced due to COVID-19 disruptions. The pandemic has shown us that change is the only constant we’ve faced. We will continue to monitor the health situation in our schools and across our county and make any safety modifications necessary to ensure we can maintain a healthy, in-person learning environment.

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