The state Board of Education has adopted new guidance encouraging public schools to offer in-person by the end of March.
The board voted unanimously Thursday to offer in-person learning to the "fullest extent possible while following all public health protocols.” The new guidance does not recommend 6-12 grades to open under Plan A.
In Buncombe County, schools are preparing to transition to full in-person learning next week.
Classrooms at Oakley Elementary School in Asheville have been empty or at half capacity for about a year. Starting Monday, kindergarteners through third-graders will be learning under Plan A.
“We are just ready for this. We are ready to get going in person. I cannot say how excited I am,” dual language teacher Paula Ottinger said.
From the minute Ottinger's third-graders walk into her classroom, they speak Spanish.
“They are learning a whole new language that they don’t have at home,” Ottinger said.
On Wednesday, her classroom was at half capacity under Plan B. Ottinger has been teaching half her students at a time in the classroom and some over Zoom.
“At home, it’s been difficult because their world is English, and we are eager to bring them back and bring that back and be immersed like the program is meant to be run,” Ottinger said.
“We as a school staff figure out the logistics and the things to make that would best for our students and for our staff,” Elementary and Intermediate Education director Jennifer Reed said.
She said, starting Monday, all students can be in the classroom together, while wearing masks and practicing the three Ws.
“The main difference is that in Plan A 6-foot distancing in the classroom in not a requirement,” Reed said.
Teachers and school staff are rearranging rooms for maximum distance and providing supply boxes for each student to cut down on physical interaction.
A week after K-3 grades return to classrooms, fourth- and fifth-graders will join them.
District officials said 6-12 grade students are still on rotating schedules.