• Safe Return Plan to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services


    The purpose of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) III Fund is to help safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and address the impacts of COVID-19 on the nation's students by addressing students' academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs. This plan describes how the Sampson County Schools (SCS) will maintain the health and safety of students, educators, and other school staff during and following the return to full in-person instruction. 

    Sampson County Schools’ Timeline

    On June 25, 2020, the SCS School Board approved the 2020-21 Return to School Plan, which was periodically revised throughout the school year and updated with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) as changes warranted or when specific grade levels of students returned to in-person instruction. The plan outlined modifications to normal practice for all services including, but not limited to, reopening metrics, instructional options, school schedules, new instruction, identification of instructional gaps and student needs, social-emotional learning (SEL) and supports, technology, COVID-19 response plans, school operations including health and safety measures taken, transportation, athletics and extracurricular activities, family engagement, and communications. Schools would open the  2020-21 school year under Plan B (a hybrid blend of remote learning and in-person learning). 

    On February 22, 2021, the SCS School Board approved Plan A returning to full in-person instruction for elementary schools to begin on March 15, 2021, and continued to implement necessary measures to maintain the health and safety of all students and staff. Face masks will continue to be required. 

    On March 22, 2021, the SCS School Board approved Plan A returning to full in-person instruction for grades 6-12 to begin on April 12, 2021, and continued to implement necessary measures to maintain the health and safety of all students and staff.. Face masks will continue to be required. 

    Plan A: Minimal Social Distancing

    • The least restrictive plan with social distancing required only where individuals may congregate, such as hallways, reception areas, cafeterias, restrooms, and locker rooms.
    • School facilities are open; all students may be in school at the same time.
    • Traditional instruction with preparation for Blended Learning

    Sampson County Schools opened the 2021-22 school year, fully in person. As part of the Free the Smiles Act of NC, school boards are required to vote each month through the end of the school year on whether or not face masks would be required or optional. The following details the SCS School Board’s vote:

    • August 2021 - Face Masks Required
    • September 2021 - Face Masks Required
    • October 2021- Face Masks Optional
    • November 2021- Face Masks Optional
    • December 2021 - Face Masks Optional
    • January 2022 - Face Masks Required
    • February 2022 - Face Masks Optional
    • March 2022 - Face Masks Optional
    • April 2022 - Face Masks Optional
    • May 2022- Face Masks Optional

    Maintaining Health and Safety

    The following sections outline the school system’s 2022-23 plan for continuing a safe return to in-person instruction and continuity of services.

    On February 24, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) redefined categories for community transmission. Sampson County was placed in the Low category and transmission continues to dissipate. Furthermore, the SCDH has also revised guidance for K-12 schools. Both agencies are shifting responsibility away from schools towards individuals and families. Given the shift to personal responsibility, SCS issued the following guidance to its schools and families in late February 2022:

    Mask Wearing

    Student and staff masking is optional.

    Physical Distancing

    All physical distancing requirements have been removed.

    Handwashing and Respiratory Etiquette

    Students and staff are encouraged to regularly wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. When handwashing is unavailable, students and staff will have access to a hand-sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol, covering their hands and rubbing them together until dry.

    Maintaining Healthy Facilities


    Cleaning and Disinfecting Procedures Buildings will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected throughout the day and every evening. Many times a day, custodians will perform the following duties, among others:

    • Sweeping, dust mopping, and spot mopping hallways, steps, and stair landings, as well as the cafeteria;  
    • Cleaning and disinfecting hall water fountains;  
    • Cleaning and disinfecting bathroom floors, sinks, toilets, urinals, and stall handles; monitoring hand sanitizer, soap, and paper products;  
    • Wiping and disinfecting high-traffic areas and touch points in halls, common areas, and classrooms, if accessible. 

    Horizontal and high-touch surfaces and shared equipment will be wiped down between classes. Disinfectants used are EPA-approved for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Current cleaning and disinfecting protocols will continue to be reviewed and enhanced in terms of frequency and intensity.


    All SCS ventilation systems have been designed and constructed in accordance with the industry standard ASHRAE 62.1 Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality and the International Mechanical Code, Chapter 4, Ventilation, which has been adopted by the North Carolina Uniform Building Code. While the Standard and the Code have changed over time, the result of the procedure for determining the amount of ventilation air required has remained nearly constant at approximately 15 cubic feet per minute (CFM) per person. Ventilation air is introduced into buildings via the HVAC system to dilute the indoor air of contaminants.

    Contact Tracing, Isolation & Quarantine

    Contact tracing responsibilities for positive COVID-19 cases involving students and staff members have been shifted from SCS staff to the Sampson County Health Department. Students and staff should still report a positive diagnosis of COVID-19 to their schools and follow isolation guidelines.

    Quarantine is no longer routinely recommended for asymptomatic individuals after exposure to COVID-19-infected individuals.

    Symptomatic persons (regardless of vaccination status) should begin isolation at home and undergo testing as recommended by their healthcare provider(s). The day symptoms began should be counted as day 0.

    Persons who test positive (regardless of vaccination status) should isolate themselves at home for at least 5 days. If they are asymptomatic or symptoms are resolving and they have been fever-free for 24 hours, they may return to programming after Day 5, provided:

    • If the individual is able to mask, they should do so through Day 10
    • If the individual is unable or unwilling to mask during this time (including children under age 2), SCHD recommends a negative test on or after Day 6 in order to return to programming OR the person should remain home through day 10
    • For exposed but asymptomatic persons (regardless of vaccination status), quarantine is no longer recommended for the above settings. These individuals may continue to attend programming as long as they remain asymptomatic.
    • Masks: Students/staff that attend programming during this time may consider wearing a mask around others indoors until Day 10
    • If a student or staff person in this group has ongoing household exposure to a person with COVID-19, VDH recommends students, families, and staff consider more frequent testing.
    • If a school or facility is experiencing an outbreak of COVID-19 that has been difficult to control or is unusual in size or scope, regional and local epidemiologists may apply professional judgment and recommend traditional quarantine and isolation standards be applied until the situation is stabilized. (Final COVID-19 Quarantine Isolation Guidance for NC Schools)

    Diagnostic and Screening Testing

    Made available through state funding, the SCHD has a ready supply of COVID-19 home testing kits available through school nurses for staff and students.

    Efforts to Provide Vaccination for School Communities

    The SCHD has promoted and facilitated initial vaccination shots for SCS students, employees, and staff. Once vaccinations were made available to children 12 and over, the school system organized in conjunction with the SCHD vaccination dates to assist parents in quick distribution to those families desiring the vaccination. 

    COVID-19 Dashboard

    The school system’s COVID-19 dashboard was discontinued in early September 2022.

    Coordination with State and Health Officials

    SCS has an open line of communication with the Sampson County Health Department in case of the need to coordinate efforts in case of an outbreak, but regular meetings have ceased.

    Accommodations to Support Children with Disabilities

    Sampson County Schools will provide appropriate accommodations to support children with disabilities with respect to state and local health and safety policies.

    Continuity of Services

    SCS will continue to take the necessary actions to ensure continuity of services, including but not limited to services to address students' academic needs and students and staff social, emotional, mental health, and other needs. Additionally, the school system will continue to provide support to address the needs of students with individualized learning plans throughout the school year. Specifics of the academic plan for the 2022-23 school year are outlined below.

    In-Person Instruction

    The school system plans to ensure all students have access to a full-time educational program with five days a week of in-person instruction. 

    Technology Integration

    The shift to emergency remote learning due to COVID-19 school closures identified significant gaps in equitable access to technology among students. Therefore, the Sampson County School Board approved a 1:1 Technology Program for all students in grades K-12. The school system identified new programs and improved existing education technology programs for the 2020-21 school year to enhance student learning and provide more efficient and effective school-home communication regarding student learning. For the 2022-23 school year, these devices will serve as a classroom enhancement supported by the following tools. A short description is included below:

    • 1:1 Technology Program: Each student in grades K-12 will have a laptop or tablet device, either division issued for use in person and at home.
    • Google Classroom (K-12 Traditional) and Canvas LMS (SECHS Only): Supports all facets of instruction: face-to-face, blended, and online learning. Using this online platform, teachers can create course content, access digital resources, assign and grade student work, provide audio and video feedback, and utilize many other features to support student learning.
    • Google for Education: Suite of productivity tools for teachers and students which offers: Gmail, Google Docs, Google Slides, Google Sheets, Meet (video-conferencing), and Drive; along with many more tools.
    • Microsoft Office 365: Suite of productivity tools for teachers and students, which includes Word, PowerPoint, and Excel.
    • ClassLink: Allows for single sign-on for staff and students to educational tools and programs.
    • Mastery Connect: Assessment platform available within Canvas. This tool will be used to create online assessments, generate reports and monitor students' learning gaps.


    Addressing Unfinished Learning

    SCS will use approximately $15,000,000.00 of its ARP Act ESSER funds to address unfinished learning as described below.

    • Provide curriculum, instruction, and assessment professional development, training, and supports for highly vulnerable populations.
    • Purchase additional technology for student and staff use.
    • Reserve indirect costs as allowed by federal and state guidelines.
    • Acquire new curriculum resources for all grades at all levels.
    • Provide summer school and tutoring opportunities for students.
    • Provide additional staff to support carrying out interventions at all schools for all grade levels.
    • Provide additional Social Workers to support student needs.
    • Provide additional staff to support smaller class sizes for social distancing in performance classes

    Mental Health and Social & Emotional Learning

    In partnering with our family and community support, SCS engages in creating a positive, connected, inclusive, and safe environment to embrace ALL learners through the development of a social-emotional learning framework.

    Acknowledging diversity is foundational to building capacity for our social and emotional awareness while sustaining an intentional focus on equitable access and academic success. The SCS system has allocated funds to provide mental health and social & emotional learning support to students and staff. These supports include the following:

    • Mental health training for all staff.
    • Trauma-Informed Practices training for select staff.
    • Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS) training for select staff.
    • Trauma-Focused--Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) training for select staff.

    Additionally, the division will utilize ESSER II-set aside funds to provide mental health and social & emotional support through mental health professional development and training.

    Food Services

    Food services for the 2022-23 school year return to pre-COVID procedures.


    Bus transportation will be provided for all students who request a ride in our tracked ridership format. Cleaning will follow regular sanitizing and disinfecting procedures.

    Making the Plan Available to the Public


    The ARP Act requires that school districts make their Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan available to the public online and that the plans be in an understandable and uniform format; to the extent practicable, are written in a language that parents can understand or, if not practicable, orally translated; and upon request by a parent who is an individual with a disability, provided in an alternative format accessible to that parent. Before making its plan publicly available, school districts must seek public comment on the plan and develop the plan after taking into account public comment.

    District response to public input in the development of its plan

    SCS has taken the following steps to make its plan available to the public:

    • The plan is posted on the Sampson County Schools website at https://www.sampson.k12.nc.us/Domain/2925
    • The plan is available in multiple languages through the use of our web provider powered by Google Translate. The plan is available in more than 100 languages. The plan can be orally translated for parents. Contact Dr. Melinda Vickers, Director of Federal Programs to request translation services.
    • The plan was provided for parents, students, and employees via our district and school open houses.
    • The plan was shared at the June 25 and July 27, 2020, Sampson County Schools Board of Education meetings. An opportunity for public comment was available during the June 21, 2021, board meeting.

    Upon request, a parent who is an individual with a disability as defined by the ADA may be provided with the plan in an alternative format accessible by contacting Dr. Melinda Vickers, Director of Federal Programs, at (910)592-1401.

    Periodic Review and Revision of Plan

    During the period of the ARP ESSER award, SCS will periodically review and, as needed, revise its plan for the safe return to in-person instruction and continuity of services. The plan will be reviewed at least every 6 months from its approval by the school board. The school system will seek and take into account public input during the review process. Plan revisions will address updated CDC and NCDHHS  guidance on safely reopening schools if any are issued.

    Print version of the Safe Return Plan to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services




    Revised 3/13/2023