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Rowan-Salisbury Schools finalizes normal, five-day schedule for fall

SALISBURY — The Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education on Monday unanimously approved returning to a normal, five-day schedule at the beginning of its fall semester on Aug. 11.

Superintendent Tony Watlington recommended returning to the normal schedule from the four-day schedule that carried the district through the 2020-2021 year. Wednesday served as a virtual-only day when students were split into two cohorts and a day off when they were returned to one group for in-person attendance. 

The vote on Monday means students will attend classes in person Monday through Friday in the 2021-2022 year, barring an unforeseen variant of COVID-19 causing a spike in cases, Watlington said.

Rowan County Health Director Alyssa Harris also gave the school board an overview of COVID-19 data during Monday’s meeting, pointing to the overall trend of declining infections and the percent of positive cases remaining consistent as the number of tests administered declines.

Harris said older people have been vaccinated at a higher rate than younger age groups. The proportion of infections in younger people has increased as a result, she said, noting there is a direct correlation between the increase in the number of vaccinated people and the declining infection rate.

“The more people are vaccinated, the fewer cases we have overall, which is fantastic,” Harris said. “It means it makes our community safer on the whole. It means that we can get back to normal activities.”

About 34.4% of people who live in Rowan County have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, including veterans who received their vaccine at the W.G. “Bill” Hefner V.A. Medical Center. 

More than 64% of people in Rowan who are 65 to 74-years-old have received at least one dose. Only 19% of people in the 18-24 age group have received a shot.

People in the 12-17 age group have only recently been allowed to receive the Pfizer vaccine. As a result, 8% of that group in Rowan have received a shot.

Harris noted people who are vaccinated are less likely to contract COVID-19. Those who do are less likely to become seriously ill.

School Board Chairman Kevin Jones asked if masks would still be required by the time school starts in August.

Harris said state guidances still recommends masks in school settings, but that could change during the summer. That could be difficult to do in the fall, Jones said, because teachers and students will become comfortable not wearing masks elsewhere in the world.

“I’m hopeful that we continue to move in that direction,” Jones said.

As long as nothing changes, including an unforeseen variant of the disease causing a spike in cases, the district expects to be able to return to the normal schedule as approved Monday, Watlington said. 

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