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Officials and school board members in the Granville County Public Schools’ headquarters in Oxford have concluded that the pandemic’s bad enough that classes should remain remote only until at least mid-March.

OXFORD — Granville County Public Schools is sticking to Plan C, which is all remote learning.

“Our heart’s desire is to have children return to school as soon as possible,” Superintendent Alisa McLean said. “Unfortunately, the indicators are simply going in the wrong direction.”

The decision came during the Granville school board’s meeting on Monday, when members voted 5-2 for students to remain in remote learning for now. Members said they will reconsider the matter on March 1, which in practice means the earliest students could return to in-person classes is March 15.

“This is definitely not the preferred mode of learning,” board Chairman David Richardson said. “We absolutely want our children back in school as soon as it is safe to do so. With the vaccines ramping up, it is my hope we can begin to turn the corner on this soon. In the meantime, we must do all we can to ensure the quality of our instruction and services to our children while on remote learning.”

Shauna Guthrie, medical director of Granville-Vance Public Health, before the vote gave board members data on the spread of COVID in the community.

Each of the key metrics she presented showed an elevation in the spread of the virus in and around the Granville community.

In addition, since December the number of school staff required to quarantine has increased by more than 20%, officials said. Nearly a third of the district’s 855 full-time employees have been forced to isolate at home at some point since the pandemic started.

In December alone, there were more than seven days with over 25 teachers out on quarantine, and the number of available substitute teachers remains less than half of what it was pre-pandemic.

“Our ability to maintain sufficient staff in our buildings to safely supervise children continues to decline as the pandemic drags on,” said Stan Winborne, assistant superintendent of operations and human resources. “It is not just our teachers who are being impacted, but the countless others who play critical support roles in serving our children and making sure our operations run smoothly and safely.”

The district started the 2020-21 academic year with all-remote instruction, and in the fall phased in a move to a “Plan B” mix of in-person and remote classes.

But as community spread of the coronavirus worsened, the board on Dec. 7 voted to make the return to Plan C remote learning effective Dec. 16.

“Quality instruction is critically important at all times, and administrators and teachers are working hard to ensure our students are engaged and actively learning while under Plan C,” McLean said. “We want all of our families to know that we are here for you, so please reach out if there are needs that are not being met and we will do our very best to support you.”

The dissenters from the board’s decision were members Amanda LaBrecque and Tom Houlihan.

Officials agreed that if possible, families should be given at least two weeks’ notice before a change in the district’s learning plan. That accounts for the delay after a March 1 decision.

If in-person instruction resumes in March, officials would phase it in again, starting with pre-kindergarten students and students assigned to separate self-contained classrooms.