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Governor Cooper says schools will partially reopen next month

Published: Jul. 13, 2020 at 8:38 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 14, 2020 at 3:37 PM EDT
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WITN) - Governor Roy Cooper says schools can reopen next month, but with safety protocols.

Schools were closed in March due to the coronavirus outbreak as instruction was shifted to online learning.

The governor said schools will reopen for both in-person and remote learning, which was Plan B of the three that educators prepared for.

Cooper says all students, kindergarten through 12th grade, along with staff and teachers will be required to wear face coverings.

Here is a list of all mandatory safety measures:

  • Require face coverings for all teachers and students K-12
  • Limit the total number of students, staff, and visitors within a school building to the extent necessary to ensure 6 feet distance can be maintained when students/staff will be stationary
  • Conduct symptom screening, including temperature checks
  • Establish a process and dedicated space for people who are ill to isolate and have transportation plans for ill students
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in the school and transportation vehicles regularly
  • Require frequent hand washing throughout the school day and provide hand sanitizer at entrances and in every classroom
  • Discontinue activities that bring together large groups
  • Limit nonessential visitors and activities involving external groups
  • Discontinue use of self-service food or beverage distribution

Schools are now set to reopen on August 17th. The plan calls for school districts to use a plan that works for them, whether it be alternating days or weeks for students being in the classroom.

Republicans were quick to criticize the governor’s plan. House Speaker Tim Moore said getting children back into the classrooms should be the state’s top priority.

The governor also announced this afternoon that the state will stay paused on Phase 2 for the next three weeks. His current executive order was set to expire this Friday.

PLAN A: Minimal social distancing

Plan A is the least restrictive of the three plans and will be utilized if the state’s COVID-19 metrics improve.

Everyone would be going back to school together but students and staff would all be screened each day before they get to class. Everyone except elementary school students would be wearing masks.

Desks would be moved, stickers on the floor would be put down to remind students of social distancing guidelines and there would be protocols in place to deliver lunch to classrooms, stagger recess times and change the bell schedules to everyone isn’t walking around at the same time. Staff would monitor arrival and dismissal and discourage groups of students from congregating. Non-essential activities and visitors would be limited. The guidance from the state also encourages virtual events like field trips, family meetings, assemblies and performances.

This plan would keep lessons in a physical classroom but also give students time to prepare for the chance that they would have to transition to remote learning.

PLAN B: Moderate social distancing

The plan for moderate social distancing could come into play if North Carolina’s health metrics do not improve. Plan B is the most complex of the three plans because each district would have to figure out how to operate their school at half capacity.

Documents from the state detail several scenarios; students could be split by grade level, keeping elementary students in school buildings but completely moving high school students to remote learning. If this is the case, state leaders theorize elementary and middle school students could even be shifted around to utilize high school campuses if those students are taking classes online.

Other scenarios within Plan B propose splitting schools in two groups. From there they would alternate which days of the week each group would come to school, split each instructional day into half days, or assign different weeks for students to show up to in-person classes.

while Plan B gets students physically in classrooms from time to time, the plan comes with major transportation issues, scheduling transitions as well as digital learning hurdles to overcome.

PLAN C: Remote learning

Under Plan C, schools would be completely closed to staff and students. Experts say this plan would go into play if the state’s COVID-19 metrics take a turn for the worst.

Summer nutrition programs would be up and running to make sure students had meals, but otherwise, learning would be done from home.

If the governor chooses this option, each district’s remote learning plan would have to be completed and turned over to the state by July 20.

While remote learning eliminates the problem of how school leaders would keep kids six feet apart, making sure every student is equipped to attend class online is no small feat. Online learning puts extra burdens on districts with less funding, less equipment and communities that don’t have reliable internet access.

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