Public schools in North Carolina will be closed for the next two weeks. Here’s how systems in the westernmost part of the state are handling it:
Schools in Cherokee, Clay, Swain, Graham, Macon, Jackson and Haywood Counties all announced meals for students will be available for pick up this week - with some starting as early as tomorrow. Additionally schools are putting into place online and at home learning materials options for students. A person from New York is now isolating in Macon County after visiting Asheville was confirmed to be the first coronavirus case in Western North Carolina Monday. Macon County Health Department has a COVID-19 Call Center at 828-349-2517.
Dr. Chris Baldwin is superintendent of Macon County Schools. He says this doesn’t change their plans.
“For the past month or so, we knew that it was inevitable that there would be a case in Macon County. You know it was a matter of when not if. So it wasn’t a huge surprise to anyone. We will deal with it as best we can,” says Baldwin. There are almost 4,400 students in Macon County Schools.
Baldwin says about 80 percent of kids in Macon County have access to the internet. Fontana Regional Library which has locations in Macon, Jackson and Swain County announced that they will be closed starting Tuesday however, they will continue to have Wi-Fi available on the premises.
Jackson County Superintendent Dr. Kim Elliott explained that they expect to get direction on school materials from the NC Department of Public Instruction to ensure continuity for education across the state. Jackson County is launching a March Feeding Program on Tuesday and will then move to a home delivery plan on Thursday. To register you can call: 1-828-575-1403.
For some parents, food and internet services are secondary to the question of who can watch their children while school is cancelled. Baldwin says there aren’t many options for childcare in Macon County at this time.
“We hope that we can be supportive to those parents and hope that we can maintain the health and safety of our entire community as we work through this event," says Baldwin.
Cherokee County schools officials are the only ones thus far in the westernmost counties to say they’re working on childcare assistance plans.
Watch communications from your local school district. More updates are on the way during this situation. Contacts for each school system are linked in this article.