GUILFORD COUNTY — For Fairview Elementary School Principal Abe Hege, a return to normalcy never carried such excitement.
Hege and the teachers at the High Point elementary school welcomed back their youngest students, who have been learning remotely since the middle of the second semester of the last academic year.
Students returned to Guilford County Schools classrooms for in-person instruction Thursday for the first time since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic locally eight months ago. The youngest students returned first, girls and boys in pre-kindergarten through second grade.
Hege said the standout memory for him focuses on the reactions as teachers connected with students in person.
“It was great to be able to see kids back in the building,” Hege told The High Point Enterprise.
The vast majority of Fairview parents wanted their children to return to class, he said.
“They’ve done great with it today when we opened the doors,” Hege said.
The Guilford County Board of Education approved a schedule Tuesday night to bring back students in phases through mid-January:
• On Monday, students in a variety of programs will return. They include students served in self-contained exceptional children classrooms in grades 3-12; students in public separate schools; students in self-contained specialized programs, including Building Futures, Crossroads and Mell-Burton; and students in regional behavior support classrooms.
• On Jan. 5, students in grades 3-5 return
• On Jan. 7, sixth-graders return.
• On Jan. 11, grades 7-8 return.
• On Jan. 21, high school students return.
Elementary students will attend in-person classes five days per week, while middle school and high school students will learn in classrooms two days a week and remotely three days a week.
The school board and administrators originally planned to resume classroom instruction on Oct. 20 but postponed it because of worsening COVID-19 trends.
A slim majority of school board members decided Tuesday that learning loss during remote instruction overrides health concerns about resuming in-person instruction during the pandemic.
School district staff leadership and school board members who favored returning to classroom instruction cited figures such as 40% of Guilford students failing at least one first quarter course, compared to 29% failing in the same period of the 2019-20 academic year.
“This was an extraordinarily difficult decision to make, but one the majority of our board feels is in the best interest of the children we serve,” school board Chairwoman Deena Hayes said. “The longer schools remain closed to students, the more we risk diminishing the learning and life outcomes for an entire generation of students. With studies around the world indicating that young children and schools are not dramatically increasing community spread, it’s time we move forward as a school district.”
At Fairview, Hege said teachers want to help students narrow any learning loss gaps.
“We want to get a good baseline on where our kids are,” he said. “We want to put a plan together to catch up some of that now going into the new year.”
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HIGH POINT — Community members are invited to a Drive-Thru Fall Festival on Saturday to help families meet challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the long-term battle against Alzheimer’s disease.
The Drive-Thru Fall Festival, set for noon to 3 p.m. at Providence Church of God In Christ on Montlieu Avenue, will include food, music, games and resources to promote healthy lifestyles.
Wake Forest Baptist Health united with the new Faith-Based Community Coalition to sponsor the festival, said Dr. Lamonte Williams, grassroots engagement specialist at Wake Forest Baptist Health.
“We realize the many challenges COVID-19 has presented to us in the forms of changing our routines, of conducting business like we’ve never been asked to conduct business before and many other aspects of our lives,” Williams said. “We are seeing people losing their jobs and businesses closing every day. In an effort to respond to the many needs of our community created by COVID-19, it is our desire to cultivate, connect and create relationships and opportunities for these community citizens in the Triad area.”
The coalition is sensitive to the many challenges COVID-19 has presented and is committed to bringing myriad services to respond to the community’s many needs, Williams said.
Seniors between the ages of 60 and 79 will have the opportunity to be engaged in The Alzheimer’s Association U.S. Study to Protect Brain Health Through Lifestyle Intervention to Reduce Risk (U.S. POINTER), a two-year study to determine whether a healthy lifestyle and diet can improve memory retention and prevent memory loss. Individuals who become part of the study will be assigned a free life coach for two years. They also will have free access to a dietician, nutritionist and brain exercises.
“The goal is to ultimately share these results with your local primary care physician, which creates a new conversation for advocacy for the participant,” Williams said. “We know that mobility is a positive effector for memory loss prevention. COVID-19 has caused all of us to be more sedentary and social-distanced.”
Pastor Kelvin Sellers, president of Ministers United for Christ, said Wake Forest Baptist Health made a presentation about healthy lifestyles at his church last month and he would like to see other local churches throughout the Triad receive similar information.
“We ran up against a baseball bat with COVID-19, and a lot of churches are not meeting right now, but we thought doing a drive-thru festival would be a good idea to get this information out because it’s valuable for people to have as far as living a healthy lifestyle,” Sellers said.
Sellers said he is also a member of High Point Peacemakers, which will be handing out bags containing face masks and hand sanitizer at the festival. High Point Peacemakers also is offering free disinfection services for homes of anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Second Harvest Food Bank will be giving away food to those in need. Donations of nonperishable food also will be collected from those who want to give to others.
Kelly Johnson, administrator at Providence Church of God in Christ, said drivers will be directed through the parking lot behind the church. The church agreed to host the festival in order to be a good community connector.
“We have our mission of loving our neighbor, loving the community and loving Christ,” she said. “We believe here at Providence that when we turn people toward loving Christ then we cannot fail. We believe this collaboration is a provision for the people of the community.”
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HIGH POINT — The show must go on, but that doesn’t mean there will be an audience for it.
Two High Point University Community Orchestra concerts scheduled for Sunday and Monday evenings at the High Point Theatre, billed as the long-awaited return of live shows at the venue, will not be open to the public, the theater’s executive director, David Briggs, said Thursday afternoon.
The announcement came after Briggs met with city attorneys to discuss what the theater’s seating capacity is under the most recent COVID-related executive order issued by Gov. Roy Cooper this week.
“We concluded the current executive order limits our seating capacity to only 25 people, so we’ve decided not to make these two concerts open to the public,” Briggs said. “The Sunday night concert will be live-streamed (at highpoint.edu/community), and the Monday concert will be performed just for recording purposes.”
Although the new limit for mass gatherings indoors is 10 people, the theater’s capacity is 25 because it’s covered by another section of the executive order, according to Assistant City Attorney Meghan Maguire.
“Auditoriums and venues for live performances are restricted to 25 guests per facility,” she said. “The limit of 10 people is aimed more at social gatherings.”
Briggs announced other scheduling changes, as well.
Two Nov. 21 productions of “Chicago,” performed by Imagine Youth Theater of Winston-Salem, have been moved to an outdoor venue elsewhere in the state, he said.
Also, a popular holiday show, “Christmas Songs and Stories With John Berry,” which was scheduled for Nov. 29, has now been canceled.
“I can’t make any money on that show by putting only 25 people in the audience,” Briggs said. “And neither can (Berry).”
Another holiday favorite, “The Nutcracker” by High Point Ballet, remains up in the air, depending on whether the Phase 3 restrictions loosen any before that show, which is scheduled for Dec. 17-19.
“At that point, we’ll determine what we’re going to do,” Briggs said. “If we can’t have an audience, we’ll probably wind up live-streaming the show.”
Briggs, who has already been forced to cancel numerous shows at the theater this year, expressed frustration that he’s still unable to bring live performance back to the venue.
“This is just one more paper cut for us,” he said.
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