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LUMBERTON – The Robeson County Public Schools School Board on Tuesday approved a virtual education plan that aims to limit the number of students online and return most students to class in the fall.

The virtual education plan, which was unanimously approved at a recess meeting on Tuesday, allows eligible students in Grades 4 through 12 to participate in virtual learning if approved by the principal and the school district office. The PSRC will only allow 10% of students in each school to learn virtually.

PSRC School Board Chairman Craig Lowry said “the bottom line” is getting students back to the classrooms where they learn best.

Students who learn virtually must follow the same schedule as students who learn in person. They must have achieved an 80% pass rate in the 2020-2021 school year and maintain an 80% average in all subjects to continue learning online in the fall semester. Adults should be present for 4th and 5th grade students during lessons and reliable internet service should be available for students.

Students with certain medical conditions may also qualify.

Applications must be submitted by parents to schools by June 9.

“We plan to return to Primetime before and after school custody,” said PSRC Superintendent Freddie Williamson. “We hope we will come back five days a week to teach and learn in person.”

Also on Tuesday, school board members approved a one-time stipend of $ 1,000 to full-time classified and certified employees due to additional duties related to COVID-19 safety protocols and additional work duties. Payment will be issued on June 24. Erica Setzer, PSRC’s finance director, said employees can contact her by email with any questions regarding eligibility or for more information.

“This is the first time in history that I know of we’ve been able to do something like this,” Lowry said.

Beginning teacher bonuses were also awarded to 25 employees who began teaching through the side entry route. More details on the bonuses were not provided.

Board members were also informed by Jennifer Freeman, Deputy Superintendent of Student Services, Response and Support, that the PSRC has been approved for the Elementary and Secondary II and III Emergency Relief Fund. The funding will help meet needs such as software, interventionists, college coaches, air purifiers, HVAC units, renovations and more.

Sandra Evans, Kindergarten to Grade 8 program director, said the North Carolina Department of Public Education’s Office of Learning Recovery has approved plans for the summer apprenticeship camp. and enrichment of the PSRC in June. The six-week credit recovery and learning program aims to help students engage and help them recover from lost learning from the impacts of COVID-19.

“We hope to build confidence and a positive attitude for students due to the lack of social interaction,” Evans said.

Setzer said the summer program, which cost around $ 10.2 million, will be funded by ESSER funds.

According to data collected from principals, a total of 11,437 students have chosen to remain virtual during the 2020-2021 school year, said Zach Jones, K-2 literacy specialist. This number represents 52% of the PSRC student population.

“It’s very important to bring these students back to face-to-face learning this summer,” Jones said.

He also reported that only 16.9% of students were online 76% to 100% of the time and 739 were not participating virtually as instructed.

“It’s a problem that we lost 739 students, lost teaching, lost for a year,” school board member Linda Emanuel said. “It’s sad.”

Bobby Locklear, executive director of testing and accountability, said the numbers were flowing with some high school students returning for testing at schools.

“We expect that number to drop significantly,” Locklear said.

Jones also said 245 high school students were not on track to graduate on June 4, but 228 seniors will be eligible for summer graduation if they participate in the summer apprenticeship program.

“We are closing the gap significantly if students can attend,” Jones said.

Locklear also said some students may be submitting past homework late, and those numbers may be affected as well.

After some debate, school board members agreed to abide by board procedures and guidelines that only allow senior graduates to wear honor cords until they are given the effective date. by schools. Superintendent Williamson retracted his leniency on the policy, at the will of council members.

Williamson has the authority to approve requests as directed, said Grady Hunt, counsel for the council.

The principal said the current guidelines are meant to celebrate student achievement and the scarves can be requested to be worn. He said he had not received any requests to deny the wearing of cords as of Tuesday.

“Our Education Council Policy Committee will need to meet and draft a new graduation cords policy which will be submitted to the full council for approval in the future,” said Gordon Burnette, Communications Manager. of the CRSP.

School board member Randy Lawson said he received calls about lanyards to wear at graduation and asked board members what they think. Lawson said if one group can wear cords, other groups should be able to do so as well.

“If we’re going to change that, it has to be a board decision,” Lawson said.

Fairley-Ferebee said the issue was resolved in 2004 and the decision was made not to allow lanyards to be worn from outside organizations.

Board member Vonta Leach said it was too late, with graduation just around the corner, to make a decision.

Lowry said his five years on the board hadn’t made conversations about the cords. He also mentioned that ropes had been distributed by the Lumbee tribe to some students this year.

Hunt said the guidelines speak of recognizing the school and the community, where the ropes could fall. However, Williamson’s decision stood.

“We’re going to try to write a policy and move forward,” Williamson said.

Another 3-year contract with Serenic Financial Software was also approved. The PSRC was in a contract with the company and state funding to modernize the financial system has yet to be secured, Setzer said.

Updating the software to a more modern system would cost over $ 1 million, which the PSRC cannot afford, she said. And the company agreed to restructure the contract.

“This new contract would save us around $ 10,000 per year,” Setzer said.

The school board also approved a mental health plan, which aims to provide students and staff with mental health supports and services for the 2021-2022 school year.

Jerome Hunt, athletic director of the PSRC, also provided updates on athletics this summer and fall.

Hunt said fall sports are expected to return to normal, according to a current update from the NC High School Athletic Association. Fall practices begin August 2.

Summer camps and training will resume. The weeks of July 5 and 19 will not include sports activities. He also said that athletes are encouraged to get vaccinated.

If an athlete is vaccinated and exposed to COVID-19, they will not be forced to self-quarantine, he said.

At the start of the meeting, a moment of silence was observed by the school board for Lindsey Britt, a teacher’s aide at Long Branch Elementary School, who died in a car crash last Saturday.

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