Coming back

Vance County High School principal Rey Horner (left) and his staff supervise the loading of buses at the conclusion of classes Monday, the first day back in the building for one cohort of the school’s seniors as officials phase in the resumption of in-person classes.

HENDERSON — Vance County High School is continuing to bring back students into the facility through Plan B this week, which will see seniors begin taking in-person classes again.

Nearly a year had passed since the last in-person classes at the high school, but principal Rey Horner is thrilled to see students back in the building and is optimistic that Plan B is the first step of seeing daily life at the school return to normal.

“I’m loving this,” Horner said. “This has brought me so much energy you would not believe. Students are the life of the school building, so to have them back after so much time is really great.”

Beginning on March 8, Vance High welcomed back its self-contained students who deal with learning and behavioral disabilities such as autism and attention-deficit disorder. The school then brought in freshmen the following week before reintroducing seniors to classes inside the building on Monday.

To limit the number of interactions at Vance County while COVID-19 cases continue to decline, sophomores and juniors currently do not have the option to attend in-person classes but Horner intends to have them back following the conclusion of spring break on April 5.

Students who are back at Vance County are still required to take some classes online through cohorts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Those in Cohort A can attend classes on Monday and Tuesday, while students in Cohort B are allowed to be in the building Thursday and Friday.

While Horner believes the risk presented by COVID-19 has been reduced with the introduction of vaccines, he and his staff are not taking any chances with potential exposure and have introduced protocols and procedures designed to keep students safe and separated.

“We’ve put up the necessary signage,” Horner said. “If you go down the main hallway, we’ve changed it so that it now only has one-way traffic. We’re doing that so that students don’t bump into each other going opposite directions. On the hallways where the classes are, there is two-way traffic, but we’ve put posts up in the middle of the hallway that kind of directs students in which direction they can walk.”

Another measure that Horner has taken during this school year involved the purchase of equipment that will provide accurate temperature readings. Students stand in front of the machine to have their temperature checked, and are then asked a series of questions to determine if they have been in close contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19.

Horner added that Vance County regularly sends out updates on social media encouraging students and their parents to remember the three W’s of wearing masks, washing their hands and watching their distance while on school property.

Horner believes that the re-opening process has gone better than expected because of the school’s safety measures, but he understands why some students and parents have concerns about attending in-person classes and are electing to stick with remote learning for the time being.

He said is willing to work with any parents who have questions about having their students return to Vance High this year. His goal is to bring in more students over the remainder of the academic year.

“We want to try and make things as normal as possible,” Horner said. “A normal school day will not look the way it did before COVID hit us, but we’re trying to make sure we’re doing all of the traditions that we’ve done in the past, and that’s our main focus.”