Updated: Governor holds off on school reopening plan to allow more time to plan

Gov. Roy Cooper delivers a briefing on North Carolina’s coronavirus pandemic response Monday, Jun. 15, 2020. [photo courtesy NCDPS]

Governor Roy Cooper said Wednesday he is going to wait to make any announcements about reopening K-12 schools to allow local districts more time to plan for how the 2020-21 academic year will be conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re continuing to get more input from teachers, and from parents, and we want to assimilate all of that and make a decision in the next the couple weeks,” Cooper said.

Many local school systems had informed teachers and parents that an announcement from the governor would be coming this week. Schools in North Carolina are required by state law to open by August 17 this year.

Ahead of today’s briefing by the governor, state Secretary of Health and Human Service Dr. Mandy Cohen and state Emergency, members of the media were alerted Tuesday evening that it would not include that announcement.

“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. Recent reports recommend it, and I know many parents and children agree,” Cooper said.

In June, the state released the Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit laying out essential health practices for schools to re-open safely. Schools were asked to prepare three plans: Plan A – in-person learning with key health and safety rules in place. Plan B – same as Plan A, but with fewer children in the classroom at one time. And Plan C – remote learning for all students.

Cooper did say that year-round schools, which are mostly centered around North Carolina’s largest cities and are scheduled to open in July will do so with online instruction only for now.

During the briefing, Cooper announced that state Emergency Management on Monday began shipping a two-month supply of personal protective equipment to school systems statewide for nurses and staff that provide medical care for students.

In total, the shipments include more than 16,500 thermometers, 7,200 face shields, 81,000 gowns and more than 347,000 surgical masks. Shipments to 203 charter schools, lab schools, and regional schools will travel via UPS. Supplies for the 116 public school districts will ship either via UPS or directly to the school district warehouse by North Carolina National Guard teams or by a contracted trucking firm.

“We’ve also given school districts access to statewide contracts so they can more easily purchase for their staff and students other health and hygiene supplies like cloth face coverings and hand sanitizer,” Cooper said.

Cooper warned North Carolina residents to keep in mind that what they do now will have a direct impact on if schools can open on time.

“As we go into the holiday weekend, we must keep our guard up. I know we want to gather with family and friends, but we have to remember that a large gathering, especially without masks and social distancing, is one of the most likely places for COVID-19 to spread,” Cooper said.

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