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What public schools can learn from private school reopenings

Gaston Day School is open at full capacity. Two and a half weeks into the year, there have been no coronavirus cases.

GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — As public schools across North Carolina continue to navigate the uncharted waters of the COVID-19 pandemic, private schools don't have to follow the same state guidelines as their public counterparts. 

In fact, many private schools in the Charlotte area are offering in-person learning options, which resulted in an increase in interest from parents of public school students. As public schools, like Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, work towards bringing kids back into the classroom, administrators can look at what's working for private schools. 

Gaston Day School is open at full capacity with a lot of safety measures in place. Halfway into the third week, there have been no positive coronavirus cases. Students are spaced out in the classroom and buildings and kept in the same small groups. They’re required to wear masks and undergo daily health screenings.

“It’s a lot different not seeing everybody, but I’m just glad we're here,” said senior Trisha Andres.

Across county lines, CMS leaders are having conversations about how to make the transition into some in person learning. Board of Education member Sean Strain says it could happen soon.

Gaston Day School gave families the option to do all online learning. For Heather Keetes-Wright, sending her son Marco, who is a sophomore, back wasn’t an easy decision. They didn’t make it until the last possible second but so far, feel like it was the right decision.

RELATED: Union County superintendent not panicking over COVID-19 in schools yet

"I have felt safe when he walks in the door, it makes me feel good when he walks in the door and he's smiling or happy and his usual self,” said Keetes-Wright. She said she was noticing the impacts isolation was having on Marco.

Even though it is more limited than in years past, students like Andres feel the benefits of social interaction.

 "I'm a very social person and I learn a lot better in person, being able to stay focused,” she said.

Every family situation is different, but for public school parents itching to get back to some semblance of normal, Keetes-Wright says their current situation shows there’s some hope.

"We say this all the time, but kids really are resilient, he's just rolling with it. It’s not terribly abnormal for him,” she said.

Many CMS parents are curious when their children will be back in the classroom, even part time. The Board of Education will hear reopening plans at next week’s meeting.

RELATED: CMS students could start returning to in-person instruction before end of month