Wondering what comes next


Schools face uncertain calendar as coronavirus restrictions continue.

  • Highlands School seniors are being honored with a display along the track on 5th Street.
    Highlands School seniors are being honored with a display along the track on 5th Street.

Since the COVID-19 coronavirus shut down schools on March 13, questions to Highlands School and Macon County Schools officials are answered with the same reply – “I don’t know” and it’s not for a lack of trying. 

Highlands School Principal Brian Jetter was at a loss for what could happen over the coming three weeks as the school district was in the process of developing end-of-year procedures. He said he is taking direction from the county. 

“Until the legislature and the governor gives us some direction, we don’t know what is going to happen,” he said on Monday. “Everything is on hold right now. Graduation, awards banquets… it’s all up in the air. We may have it, we may delay it, or we might not have it at all.”

The last day for students is scheduled for May 22, but that may change, Jeter said. 

“The state and district will meet to discuss end of year plans during the first two weeks of May,” he said. “They could very well push back the end of the school year until June 10, or they may not do anything.”

N.C. Governor Roy Cooper’s current directive closing public schools expires May 15. The governor could rescind the order or extend it. School officials won’t know what to do for planning until then. 

Macon County Schools Superintendent Chris Baldwin said all future plans for this school year hang on the governor’s directive and what happens on May 15. 

“If the executive order ends our plan is to bring back students for two weeks to wrap up the school year and then continue on with all graduation and end of school year ceremonies and activities,” Baldwin said. “That’s a tentative, if, but we’re planning on it. Beyond this, everything depends on what happens with the executive order.”

Debbie Cabe, Power School Coordinator said the school district takes its direction from the state’s Department of Public Instruction. 

“These are unprecedented times,” Cabe said Monday. “This is a learning experience for everybody.”

As the school year winds down about to begin its final month on Friday, grades, attendance and graduation requirement guidelines are being determined, Cabe said.

“We stopped taking attendance when the schools closed,” she said. “Through online learning if the teacher was active online that day and the student at any time during the day accessed the remote learning site, the student is counted present for that day.”

Cabe said the school district is waiting on the NCDPI to hand down policy for the final month of the 2019-20 school year, graduation, final grades and how they are to be determined, and the possibility of re-opening come next fall.

“This could very easily continue on into the fall of the 2020-21 school year,” she said. “We hope it doesn’t, but it could.”