Chatham Charter, in hybrid learning since January, to increase in-person learning this month

Posted 2/10/21

SILER CITY — With nearly a month of in-person hybrid learning under its belt, Chatham Charter School is planning the second phase of its return to campus, with all of K-5 set to return to Plan A by …

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Chatham Charter, in hybrid learning since January, to increase in-person learning this month

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SILER CITY — With nearly a month of in-person hybrid learning under its belt, Chatham Charter School is planning the second phase of its return to campus, with all of K-5 set to return to Plan A by the beginning of March.

“The January return to campus has been a positive one so administration feels we are able to expand in-person learning,” the school’s website says. “Toward the end of February, middle and high school students who are currently in fully remote status will have the option of returning to in-person learning... for the final nine-week grading period of the school year.”

Last October, just 12 days after Chatham Charter began phasing in a return to in-person learning, the school paused all face-to-face instruction and athletic workouts on Sunday, Oct. 18 through at least Friday, Oct. 30, later extending remote learning through the end of the first semester. Kindergarteners returned under Plan A and grades 1-5 returned under Plan B on Jan. 11; 6th through 12th graders returned under Plan B on Jan. 19.

Next Tuesday, all K-2 students can return to campus four days a week for in-person learning, with Wednesday as a remote learning and thorough cleaning day. Third grade students can return on Feb. 22, and 4th and 5th graders can return March 1. All 6th through 12th grade students will return on the Plan B hybrid schedule.

John Eldridge, head of school, said it’s been a challenging year for teachers and families alike — and that challenge doesn’t go away even though some students are back in-person.

“While it’s great that we’ve got some kids back on campus, also knowing that we have a number of kids at home, teachers are finding themselves teaching the same lesson two, three times — so it’s been really challenging and taxing on teachers,” Eldridge said.

“But I won’t lie to you,” he said, “if I said to you, I wasn’t like a giddy little kid the first day we brought kids back and they were walking down the hallway — with us adults acting like it’s a parade.”

Of the school’s 564 students, 189 students — or 33.5% — are opting for fully remote instruction, school administration said.

Silas Christenbury, a 10th grade student who began in-person learning last month, said the transition back to in-person classes hasn’t been “that bad,” so long as he remembers to set his alarm earlier for those days.

“It’s nice because you’re seeing people again,” he said, adding that he prefers the hybrid model to Plan C. “And if you have the online schedule every day, it gets really monotonous, but having the hybrid breaks it up. I like the hybrid better, because I get to see people — it’s the best of both worlds.”

Last semester, the school created “Knights on a Crusade Brigade” campaign to foster school spirit and a sense of community even during periods of remote learning. They celebrated the return to in-person learning with a fireworks show in January, and will host a spirit week this month. In March there will be a drive-in movie.

And along the way, Eldridge said the school community will keep looking for ways to adapt.

As you drive onto the school’s campus, its sign features a message meant to accomplish its goal of remaining “uKNIGHTed,” even in challenges associated with learning during COVID-19.

“Do your part to keep our campus open,” the sign reads.

Eldridge concurs: “I really look to the day when we can get them all back, as much as possible.”

Reporter Hannah McClellan can be reached at hannah@chathamnr.com and on Twitter @HannerMcClellan.

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