’We want our schools open for in-person instruction’; N.C. governor delays school reopening announcement

Updated: Jul. 1, 2020 at 11:59 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Within the next couple of weeks, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper says he will give a directive for reopening schools in the fall after delaying the announcement on Wednesday.

The state has some schools that are scheduled to start in July, and officials are asking those schools to conduct remote learning until the decision is made for in-person learning.

In early June, the state released the Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit that laid out essential health practices for schools to re-open safely, the governor said.

Schools were asked to prepare three plans.

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 virtual learning for all students.

Gov. Cooper says district and school administrators are still working on ways to implement those plans, and state officials are asking them to keep using this time to work with teachers, staff, parents and public health officials to make sure that schools are opening in the safest possible way.

The governor says he wants schools to be open for in-person instruction by August, stressing the importance of the classroom for students.

“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,” Gov. Cooper said. “School is where children learn academics, but it’s also how they build the social skills, get reliable meals, stay physically fit and really become tomorrow’s leaders.”

North Carolina is not issuing a statewide directive Wednesday on how schools should be open in the fall. But Gov. Cooper says officials will soon make that announcement as they want to get our students back in the classroom.

The governor says his priority is opening classroom doors. He encourages public schools to continue planning, with a special focus on how teachers, staff, and students can best be protected – especially those who are high-risk.

The state’s Emergency Management and public health staff began delivering a two-month supply of medical-grade protective wear to schools across North Carolina this week. These supplies will go to school nurses and staff who provide health care to children.

North Carolina has also given school districts access to statewide contracts so they can more easily purchase other health and hygiene supplies like cloth face coverings and hand sanitizer for their staff and students.

“When we had to close schools for in-person instruction in March, our teachers and school support staff, like bus drivers and cafeteria workers, geared up for remote learning. I’m thankful for their work to keep the lessons, the meals, and the support for their students going,” Gov. Cooper said.

“Our goal remains getting children back in classroom for in-person instruction that’s safe for students and their teachers,” Gov. Cooper said.

Cooper continued to stress residents to wear a face covering, wash their hands, and wait six feet apart.

“Sticking to these safety rules now will help get schools back open safely. It will help stabilize our numbers, keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed and at the end of the day – it will help save lives. We have the power, and we can do this together,” Gov. Cooper said.

While answering a question, Gov. Cooper says it is possible there will not in person instruction if the COVID-19 numbers are bad. However, he says officials being more knowledgeable about the coronavirus is a plus in handling the reopening plans.

The North Carolina Association of Educators issued a statement in response Wednesday.

“How to re-open North Carolina school buildings, bus garages, and administrative offices is a critical decision, and we are incredibly thankful for Governor Cooper’s thoughtful and thorough approach,” said Tamika Walker Kelly, President of the North Carolina Association of Educators. “COVID information is changing on a daily basis, and the health and safety of all of our state’s educators, students, and their families is at stake. It is far more important to get this decision right than to get it done quickly. NCAE looks forward to working with the Governor and the State Board of Education to ensure educator voices continue to be heard in the planning to safely re-open our schools for students and all educators.”

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