With COVID-19 cases decreasing, the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Board of Education approved a plan Tuesday for fourth and fifth graders to return to school four days a week beginning in March.
Those students had been divided into two groups, alternating between in-person and remote learning. Each group went to their school buildings two days a week.
Tricia McManus, in her last recommendation as interim superintendent, asked the board to eliminate cohorts for fourth graders beginning March 8 and fifth graders on March 15.
McManus was named superintendent later in the meeting.
In addition to that recommendation, McManus asked the board to change the number of cohorts for middle school students from four to two beginning March 15 as long as there is six feet of social distancing among students.
There are four middle schools in the district with four cohorts. Those students go to their classrooms just four days a month.
Under the recommendation, they will go to their classrooms eight days a month.
In addition, McManus said the district will look at data and make recommendations on trying to return more high school students to their classrooms. Those recommendations will be made to the board's COVID-19 committee on March 16 with a vote by the full board expected to follow shortly so that high school students can be in school for the last nine weeks of the school year.
Finally, the board approved working with students with specialized education plans in middle and high schools to offer in-person learning four days a week.
Students from pre-K through third grade have been going to school four days a week for a few months. Earlier this month, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services relaxed some social distancing standards for students in grades K-5, allowing for minimal social distancing. That change combined with declining COVID-19 cases and positivity rate led McManus to make the recommendation.
In other news, the board agreed to waive a local requirement that students need to have a "C" average to participate in athletics and extracurricular activities. Those students must still pass three of four classes, which is a state requirement.
The board can't change the state requirement, but it does have the authority to change its requirement.
Because of the challenges of remote learning, the number of student-athletes ineligible to participate in sports was double the rate of a typical year.