Gov. Cooper says directives about new school year coming ‘within weeks’

[Photo courtesy North Carolina Department of Public Instruction]

As the state’s COVID-19 cases continued to spike this week, Gov. Roy Cooper on Wednesday said it’s up to all North Carolinians to make sure schools can openly safely for the new school year.

“My number one opening priority is classroom doors,” Cooper said during an afternoon press conference. “So we encourage our public schools to continue that planning, with a special focus on how teachers, staff, and students can best be protected – especially those who are high-risk.

“To meet that goal, we need everyone to do what works, the three Ws – wear a face covering over your mouth and nose, wash your hands, and wait six feet apart. Especially the face covering part, which we learn every day to be more and more important to this process.”

Many had expected the governor to announce school reopening directives at today’s news conference, but said Cooper said he’s not ready just yet to do that.

In June, Cooper asked schools to prepare three plans for the new school year: The first plan is in-person learning with key health and safety rules in place. The second plan is the same as the first plan, but with fewer children in the classroom at one time. And the third plan is remote learning for all students.

“District and school administrators are still working on ways to implement those plans, and we’re asking them to keep using this time to work with teachers, staff, parents and public health officials to make sure that our schools are opening in the safest possible way,” Cooper said. “Let me be clear: We want our schools open for in-person instruction in August. The classroom is the best place for children to learn.”

North Carolina students haven’t been to school in-person since mid-March.

“We are not issuing a statewide directive today on how schools should be open in the fall. But we will soon. We want to get our students back in the classroom, and we want to make sure we get this right,” Cooper said, saying he expects to make an announcement “within the next couple of weeks.”

He said work to prepare schools is already underway. This week, state mergency management and public health staff began delivering a two-month supply of medical-grade protective wear to schools across the state. The supplies will go to school nurses and staff who provide health care to children.

“A few schools are scheduled to start in July, and we ask that those schools conduct remote learning until the decision is made for in-person learning,” Cooper said. “Our goal remains getting children back in classroom for in-person instruction that’s safe for students and their teachers.”

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