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Dukes return to school

Cumberland County Public Schools (CuCPS) celebrated its first day of hybrid learning Monday, Oct. 19. The day was a big milestone for many kids who hadn’t been inside a school building since last school year.

CuCPS Superintendent Dr. Chip Jones said the school system is using a “pulsing model” of hybrid learning in which students are divided into A and B groups, with each group attending school in person Monday through Thursday on alternating weeks. All grade levels are participating in the pulsing model schedule.

Jones said he was very proud of the steps the school system and families have taken in order to prepare for the return to class. CuCPS has a mask mandate for both staff and students, and families do a health screening prior to their children leaving for school. Staff members have their temperature taken as they arrive on campus, there are social distancing reminders throughout school buildings, visitor access to facilities has been limited and classrooms have socially distanced seating arrangements.

Additionally, students are eating breakfast and lunch in the classroom. There’s continuous cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched areas throughout the schools, with frequent reminders about hand-washing, social distancing and the importance of wearing a mask.

A lot of preparation has also gone into transportation. Jones said the school divided the county in half for bus routes in order to allow for consistent routes for consecutive days. Some routes require the use of two buses to ensure social distancing protocols are maximized. Students sit one child per seat on the bus unless students live in the same household, and a staggered bus schedule has been implemented for bus unloading in the morning and loading in the afternoon.

Jones said the school district also stays in continuous communication with the Piedmont Health District.

While many Cumberland students are returning to school in this hybrid style, Jones said approximately 35% of CuCPS families have chosen to remain on a fully remote learning schedule.

Jones said he was pleased regarding Monday’s launch into in-person instruction.

“All in all it went well,” he said. “Students arrived at school, went to their assigned classes, ate both breakfast and lunch and boarded the bus to go home. Our planning paid off.

“Everyone knew and understood the expectations. It did the ‘heart well’ to see students at school. I was amazed how much the students had grown.”

He emphasized the efforts of all involved in order to get kids back in the classroom.

“I am very proud of our families, students and staff,” he commented. “They have remained flexible, understanding, and (are) learning how to balance all of the demands. This has been a new experience for everyone. Cumberland is definitely a resilient community.”