8-12-2020 – Early on, people forget masks, distancing

Posted on: August 12th, 2020 by admin

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August 12, 2020

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BY GUY LUCAS

GUYLUCAS􀀀NEWSTOPICNEWS.COM

 

Human nature may be one of the biggest obstacles to schools operating under coronavirus-related health proto-cols, the superintendent of the Caldwell County Schools said.

 

All teachers reported to work on Monday, and students at the Caldwell Applied Sciences Academy and Caldwell Early College High School came back either Monday or Tuesday, and everyone needs reminders of the health rules, Superintendent Dr. Don Phipps told members of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission’s board of directors on Tuesday.

 

“It’s tough to get students and adults to break out of old habits,” he said.

 

People tend to cluster with their friends, and they often forget to wear masks, he said.

 

The EDC board heard updates Tuesday from Phipps and Dr. Mark Poarch, the president of Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, about ongoing work for the fall semester in the public schools and at the college.

 

Poarch agreed that enforcing health protocols will be critical.

 

“If we can just get people to follow the protocols,” classes should be manageable, he said.

 

Phipps said that arrangements for before- and after-school child care remain “the biggest piece that I wish I could solve.”

 

Many parents have relied on schools to provide those care pro-grams so they could remain at work, but strict state guidelines on social distancing at care facilities have sharply reduced the number of children the schools can keep, he said. The school system is trying to find alternatives in the community, such as at churches, but it has been difficult.

 

Exactly how school bus routes are going to operate also remains in the works, he said. Social distancing guidelines can mean that a bus that normally could carry 72 children now may carry 24 — or even fewer. That combined with the alternating days that children will have in-per-son and online-only instruction mean there will be many adjustments, he said.

 

“I don’t know that we’ll have two identical bus route days all year long,” he said.

 

Phipps and Poarch said that when there inevitably is a case of students testing positive for COVID-19, how the school system or the college responds will depend on guidance from state and local health officials.

 

To address the number of low-in-come families without inter net access or computers at home, the school system used federal coronavirus-relief funding to buy 100 Wi-Fi hotspots and about 1,200 Chromebook laptops, and donations are being accepted to buy more hotspots.

 

One such donation came Monday night at the Caldwell County Board of Education meeting, to the tune of $10,000 from Living Hope Church. The church typically holds an event every year to give away backpacks, but Pastor Keith Gilliam said that church members thought that funding Wi-Fi hotspots would have a bigger impact this year.

 

In other business, EDC Executive Director Deborah Murray asked everyone to help spread the word about the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Job Retention Grant Pro-gram. It’s a $15 million pool for providing grants, not loans, of up to $250,000 for small businesses or non-profits that have been hurt by the coronavirus-related economic crisis.

 

A key eligibility requirement is that the organization by the end of June had retained 90% of the number of full-time employees it had in February.

 

Murray also announced the new “24/7 virtual job fair” on the EDC’s website, caldwelledc.org. Clicking on the blue “Caldwell is Hiring” but-ton on the right side of the site will take the user to a listing of all of the jobs in the region that the EDC has been notified about, and each listing links to that employer’s online job application site.

 

The site operates similar to popular job sites such as Indeed.com, but users do not have to register or fill out profiles, she said.

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