The Polk County Board of Education approved Monday a schedule change for local middle school students as well as an increase in physical education and athletic workout opportunities and began looking at a possible revised schedule for all elementary schools.

During an emergency meeting held at Stearns Education Center, the board voted to accept recommendations from Superintendent Aaron Greene altering schedules for students at Polk County Middle School as well as relaxing some limits around playgrounds, weight rooms and locker rooms.

The board also approved updated guidelines for elementary schools from state government officials and directed Greene to survey local families and teachers about the change being considered for elementary students.

The approved changes include:

  • Starting October 6, Polk County Middle School in-person learners will begin attending school four days per week instead of the current two. In-person learners will come to school each weekday except Wednesday.
  • In line with changes announced last week by Governor Roy Cooper, all local elementary schools can fully move to Plan A of the state’s reopening plan for schools. This allows any remote learning student who wishes to return to school to do so provided the student adheres to policies for wearing masks and other required guidelines.
  • Elementary schools will be allowed to begin using playground structures and settings during recess. Middle school and high school physical education students will also be allowed to begin using weight rooms, locker rooms and shower facilities. Teachers must still follow all Department of Health and Human Services requirements in doing so.
  • All athletic teams may begin using weight rooms, locker rooms and shower facilities. Coaches must still follow all requirements issued by the Department of Health and Human Services and North Carolina High School Athletic Association in doing so.
  • Athletic teams can also now work out in larger groups, per NCHSAA guidelines, with a maximum of 25 athletes allowed indoors and 50 athletes allowed outdoors.

Board members also discussed a change to elementary school schedules to give additional time to teachers for working with remote students and better support planning for all students. The change under consideration would mean that Wednesdays would either become a half or full day of remote learning for students.

Polk County Schools has set up a survey here – https://forms.gle/1MQwAoyicJnXEccJ7 – and is asking all elementary school families and teachers to complete the survey by the end of this week.

The additional days of in-person learning for Polk County Middle School are possible due to the current number of students opting for remote learning. That allows the school to have additional students on campus each day while still maintaining proper social distancing.

The change will mean that current remote students may face a longer waiting period to return to in-person learning, should they choose to do so, as PCMS will need to maintain current spacing and class sizes.

While activities and participation can increase for physical education classes, playground activities and athletic workouts, Polk County Schools will still adhere to all NCDHHS and NCHSAA guidelines for those:

  • Playground equipment, hard surfaces, handrails and other surfaces will be sanitized between “group” usage (after each class) by utilizing existing equipment and sprays.
  • The number of students in each weight room / locker room / shower area will be limited according to room size and official guidelines.
  • All weight room equipment (bars, seats, etc.) will be sanitized between users.
  • Face coverings will still be required in all settings except showers.