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Most GCS Students to Continue Learning Online

Oct. 23, 2020Guilford County Schools will not bring back first and second graders to school classrooms on Monday, October 26, due to ongoing concerns regarding high levels of community spread of COVID-19 in Guilford County. The district will continue serving pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students on a voluntary basis, and students who receive related services will continue to receive those in person. All other students will continue learning online.

District leaders made the call after consulting with local public health officials, who indicated that the community’s risk factors for transmitting COVID-19 in schools were not improving. Guilford County was recently identified by the White House Task Force on COVID-19 as a county of concern, according to news reports today.

GCS has been working toward a phased re-entry that would bring back the youngest and most vulnerable students first, including students with disabilities who are served in self-contained classrooms and the district’s four public-separate schools.

“It has been our plan from the beginning to bring our exceptional children back to school more quickly than other students, as their disabilities make it more challenging for them to access learning online,” said Superintendent Sharon Contreras, noting that while most students learn best in-person, the most vulnerable children will fall behind the most.

“While we remain hopeful that our students will be back in the classroom soon so they receive the individual and personal attention they need, the Guilford County Division of Public Health shared that health metrics have not improved,” said Contreras. “We will continue to take our guidance from public health officials and the Guilford County Board of Education will make decisions that are in the best interest of our students and staff.”

GCS also joined the ABC Collaborative, a scientific analysis board associated with the Duke University School of Medicine and Clinical Research Institute that advises several North Carolina school systems on their reopening plans. The collaborative has been helpful in synthesizing and summarizing COVID-19 data from a variety of sources, including scientific articles and research studies.

“These are difficult decisions with serious consequences. We need to make sure we have access to additional experts and the best information possible. Having such access will benefit our decision-making greatly,” Contreras said.

A recent New York Times article shows that New York City public schools are showing surprisingly low numbers of COVID-19 cases in the three weeks since they returned to in-person learning. At the same time, concerns about learning loss during online learning continue to grow. Data released from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes shows that students could be losing as much as 183 days of learning time in reading and 232 days in math in an online learning setting.

The district will review data again next week and make an announcement regarding students in  pre-kindergarten through second grade, and certain students with disabilities in adaptive curriculum classes on Friday, Oct. 30, for a possible return on Nov. 4 or 5, depending on whether the school is a polling place. Nov. 3 is a vacation day for all students, and sites that are polling places will remain closed on Nov. 4 in order to give school personnel time to reset classroom spaces and clean and disinfect the buildings.

“We are doing everything in our power to bring our students back safely, and we need the community to continue to practice safe protocols and reinforce them even more to slow the spread of the virus,” Guilford County School Board Chair Deena Hayes-Greene said.

For more information on reopening schools, visit