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April 14, 2021

Students return to Gray Stone as school switches to Plan B

By Chris Miller
Stanly News & Press

Gray Stone students in Heather Ferguson's science class. Students returned to in-person instruction on Tuesday as part of Plan B. Photo courtesy of Helen Nance.
Gray Stone students in Heather Ferguson's science class. Students returned to in-person instruction on Tuesday as part of Plan B. Photo courtesy of Helen Nance.

For the first time in more than a year, students at Gray Stone Day School are now back on campus for in-person learning. The first group started on Tuesday.

Now operating under Plan B, the school is on an A/B rotation schedule, where one group of students comes to Gray Stone on Tuesday and Wednesday while the other group comes on Thursday and Friday. Monday will still be virtual.

“Everybody felt like it went really well,” Chief Administrative Officer Helen Nance said about the first day, though she noted many of the students were a little quieter than usual.

A small contingent of students will remain virtual, Nance said, but that’s mainly due to health reasons.

Having operated on a remote schedule since last March, Nance said there had been ongoing discussions about returning to in-person learning, but with state restrictions still in place, she said it was always more efficient to stay with online learning. But with Gov. Roy Cooper recently relaxing restrictions and guidelines, Nance said the school felt it was safe to transition back.

All students and staff are wearing masks and maintaining six feet of distance. Parents are also required to complete an online assessment before each school day, confirming that their children are healthy and exhibiting no possible symptoms of the virus.

The school day runs from 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m., with six 45-minute classes. In the afternoons, teachers are available to meet with remote students from 2-3:30, though Nance said many stay as late as 5.

Students will work independently on their assignments during the days they are not on campus.

To help middle students who are feeling stressed about the sudden change in routine, licensed counselors from Monarch are working with them during their P.E. classes on Wednesday and Friday. The counselors will provide students with tools to use when they feel overwhelmed or stressed with change, Nance said, noting she expects the school to continue partnering with Monarch into next year. She noted that school counselors have been and continue to be a valuable resource for students.

“One of the reasons I feel like it’s good for us to come on back now, instead of waiting until next fall, is to give them an opportunity to come back in smaller groups and adjust to some kind of a routine,” Nance said.

Even with the transition to in-person education, remote learning has still been a success, with 95 percent of middle and high school students regularly showing up for Zoom classes, Nance said. She added that grade scores so far this year have been comparable to the first semester of last school year before the pandemic.

“Since the school was first started, the culture is that your education is your responsibility and however hard you work, that is how well you will succeed,” Nance said.

Nance expects Gray Stone to stick with Plan B for the remainder of the school year. She hopes to return to full-time in-person learning at the start of next school year.

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