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What will school look like next year in Alamance-Burlington, Randolph Counties?

What will classrooms look like in the fall?{ }
What will classrooms look like in the fall?
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Questions centered around what next school year will look like as we turn the corner on the pandemic are starting to make their way through parents.

This time, we're taking a look at some of the area's rural districts and their plans for the fall season.

Leaders from Randolph County and Alamance-Burlington School Systems say when it comes to COVID-19, they're waiting on guidance from state and local health officials.

The districts' approach is creating a safe environment that still helps students excel.

"I believe they miss each other," said Dr. Stephen Gainey, Randolph County School System's superintendent. He says, "there's a camaraderie in school."

Dr. Gainey says he's anticipating a five-day in-person learning return.

"The excitement is going to really overtake the day, there's also going to be some anxiety," Dr. Gainey said.

"Nothing beats just sitting in the classroom with folks being able to ask those questions and not having to look at a black screen," said Revonda Johnson, the chief secondary officer for Alamance-Burlington School System.

Johnson says students will start back five days a week face-to-face, but it's also offering summer learning to help students catch up and ease nerves.

"That excites parents because they see we are opening our doors, summer learning is all in person which tells you if we can do it all this summer, we will be ready for the fall," Johnson adds.

The summer learning program will include enrichment activities as well as hands-on studies in math and science.

We asked Dr. Gainey and Johnson about COVID-19 presenting emotional challenges, as well and what approaches they're taking to help students.

"We're going to need to provide that," Dr. Gainey said. "Public school is a source of love for kids. They've been detached from this source of love and support during the school day."

"We have intervention time where students are able to go in and get extra help during the day, they may need emotional and social support they may need in a small group," Johnson said. We are looking at the whole child, so we're not just worried about the report card grade."

It's been a year full of emotions for students and staff. Alamance-Burlington and Randolph County School Systems say they've been working extra hard to keep kids in the classroom. And they say it's finally happening because of one thing, their students.

"When you see what students, staff and parents did to stick together as a team, it's just the unbelievable," Dr. Gainey said. "We wouldn't have a chance of being in school if all three groups hadn't stuck together."

"I think the young people are more resilient then us as adults, they just fall into what is the best practice and I think they are so, they want to return to some sense of normalcy that they will do what is asked," Johnson said.

ABC 45 also asked what classrooms will look like.

"You've seen teachers be creative in how they set up their rooms to be able to socially distance, I don’t necessarily see that going away," Johnson said.

"We will continue to try to keep things the best we can, but there will be no guarantees just because of the size of the classrooms and facilities," Dr. Gainey said.

Masks will be required still inside.

For those still uneasy about returning, the virtual option will remain for all students. Even before the pandemic, Alamance-Burlington had a virtual school. This time around, it will have a separate building just for the virtual school.

"They recognized the need that some kids just do better," Johnson said. "They don’t necessarily like to be in large crowds or in high schools."

"The board of education approved a 32nd school in our system," Dr. Gainey told ABC 45. "It will be an official school and it will be the virtual academy at Randolph for grades K-8."

"We're reacting and putting all the pieces together and looking at the whole picture because there’s a lot to consider," Johnson said.

The specifics on CDC guidelines in schools will depend on the toolkit the districts receive from the state.

When it comes to vaccinations, both districts say they will encourage families, but it's ultimately the parents and students decision.

Custodial staff will still continue to follow cleaning protocols to keep schools disinfected at all times.

This year will include outside graduations, athletics and marching band, some school activities leaders say need to be back in place.

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