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Spark Reopening Task Force Update | Plans for Return to School in 2020-21


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On Thursday, June 25, Superintendent Pascal Mubenga and senior administrators brought to the Durham Public Schools Board of Education his plan for reopening schools under the state’s “Plan B” requirement. Governor Roy Cooper has asked all school districts and charters to come up with three plans for the 2020-21 school year, depending on the severity of COVID-19:

  • Plan A: Minimal social distancing

  • Plan B: Increased social distancing with schools at no more than 50 percent and buses at no more than 33 percent capacity

  • Plan C: Remote instruction only

The Governor will choose one plan as the baseline for North Carolina; school districts may adopt that plan or one more restrictive.

Plan B: The idea behind Plan B is to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19 by reducing student density on our campuses. Some of the state’s suggestions included split schedules during the day, weeks on and weeks off, A-days and B-days, and more. No matter how you slice it, Plan B is a complicated instructional and logistical challenge.

After considering feedback from the Spark Re-Opening Task Force of administrators, educators, and health professionals, Dr. Mubenga chose the following Plan B and brought it to the school board, which approved it unanimously:

  • In-person instruction for pre-K through eighth-grade students

  • In order to use high school facilities to reduce density for elementary and middle students, online instruction for high school students

  • In-person accommodations for exceptions such as exceptional children and English learners

  • The creation of Ignite Online Academy for students and staff unable to participate in in-person instruction due to health concerns

One of the reasons for choosing this approach is the need for childcare for our youngest and most vulnerable students. We recognize that our high school students are also vulnerable and we are continuing to work to identify ways to ensure that they remain engaged and receive socio-emotional support. 

About Ignite Online Academy: 

  • Students participating in Ignite Online Academy will still be allotted to their base or magnet school—those schools will not lose funding.
  • Wherever possible, DPS will match students and teachers from the same school. We want to maintain community and create a win-win for students and educators who have COVID-19 concerns. We are also doing this to avoid situations where teachers are doing double duty as in-person and online instructors.

  • Our director of online learning, Matt Hickson, and colleagues are working to ensure that Ignite Online Learning provides first-class learning—including daily, live direct instruction—powered by our new commitment to provide one-to-one devices and internet connectivity to our students.

  • With the plan to have High School students online, there will be a collaboration between Ignite Online Academy and our high schools to ensure that we are sharing best practices and innovations in online instruction.

There are no perfect answers to “Plan B.” Our entire community, state, and nation must rally together and fight COVID-19 through physical distancing, consistently wearing face coverings, and hand-washing/sanitization, in order to fully restore in-person instruction and support our students and staff. However, we believe this is the best way forward to provide the most support possible to our vulnerable and historically-marginalized students while maximizing safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.