RANDOLPH COUNTY — Nearing the end of the school year, the Randolph County Board of Education reflected on a run that began back in August, as the school system strove to make in-person learning a staple of pandemic education.
At its most recent meeting, the board discussed what it has been like for educators to fight for a cause it believed in throughout. While many systems across the state chose to turn to remote learning exclusively, Randolph attempted to incorporate as much classroom time as possible.
“It has been quite a remarkable school year, considering what this school system has gone through,” said Stephen Gainey, RCSS superintendent. “That’s been of a high level of pride for me as I’ve watched staff and students do what I don’t think anybody thought was possible, which was start school on Aug. 17.
“We thought it was possible, but maybe people outside of us didn’t think it was possible.”
For the first time in more than 150 days, students in Archdale and Trinity made their way back to elementary, middle and high school campuses across Randolph County on Aug. 17. Now 150 days later, school officials celebrate their fulfilled mission.
A historic lull in the physical presence of children on educational properties — many appearing much like ghost towns throughout portions of the spring and summer — caused RCSS officials great consternation. RCSS Board Chairman Gary Cook has consistently been effusive in his praise, however, in the way the system has cleared unprecedented hurdles.
Cook alluded to the unique graduation wherein students and families were socially distant outdoors for commencement ceremonies last year. He was proud of the ability for RCSS to have that day of closure for seniors from the Class of 2020.
“People said you won’t last two weeks, and we made it all year,” Cook said. “That’s a highlight for Randolph County. We were first on that, I guess. Last year, they said you can’t have high school graduation and we did. Eight or 10 hours before, they were trying to stop us. I’ll tell you what I said. ‘I’ll stop answering the phone.’ ”
Gainey has reiterated that parents were front and center in the fight to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. As they directly informed teachers and principals of cases, the school system was able to quickly work to mitigate exposure.
By virtue of that strong effort, damage has also been kept to a minimum.
“We were able to get out in front of these cases and deal with the quarantine before a positive case became a bigger issue in the schools,” Gainey said. “Again, today is Day 149, and I’m extremely proud of our school system, our staff and our parents. Years from now, I will always remember the tremendous effort by those three groups of people and the board.”
Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.