CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Gov. Roy Cooper announced that beginning on October 5, North Carolina elementary schools will be able to open under “Plan A,” which allows all students and staff to return to school.
“We are able to open this option because most North Carolinians have doubled down on our safety and prevention measures and stabilized our numbers,” Cooper said on Thursday. “The science of lower viral spread among younger children also backs up this decision.”
Symptom screenings and health attestations will still be required for use of school transportation under this plan. Grades 6-12 will still be required to operate under the “Plan B” approach, which lets students participate in a mix of in-classroom and remote learning.
Schools are also still allowed the option of completely virtual learning, as laid out in N.C.‘s “Plan C.”
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“I want to be clear, Plan A may not be right at this time for many school districts and for every family. Opportunities for remote learning need to be available for families who choose it. And districts will have the flexibility to select a plan based on their unique situation,” Cooper said. “But plan A does not require schools to reduce the number of children in the classroom. Students in grades 6-12 still must operate only under Option B, which is partially in person and partially remote or Option C, which is all remote.”
“I’m proud of our work to get to this point, and know that a number of school districts are moving soon to in-person instruction under Plan B with strong safety measures,” Cooper continued. “We anticipate more will join them.”
Face coverings are required for every teacher, staff and student from kindergarten through high school. The governor says studies have shown overwhelmingly that face coverings reduce disease transmission.
For more guidance on school reopenings and safety measures being taken, click here.
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N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen explained that as schools have opened, the current science shows that younger children are less likely to become infected, have symptoms, experience severe disease or spread the virus.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson remarked on the announcement as well.
“It’s great news today that we are a step closer to providing the option of in-person learning to families who want their children to return to school,” Johnson said. “While the Governor, the State Board of Education, and I have our differences, I join with them today to encourage local school board members to take advantage of this change and open all schools safely. I thank the many parents and teachers across North Carolina who have been vocal advocates on this important issue.”
The announcement came one day after the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education approved a recommendation for CMS to begin a phased return to in-person instruction. They released the following statement on Cooper’s decision:
“A key component of Gov. Cooper’s announcement today is that decisions on returning more students and staff to classrooms are left to school boards to make, based on what is right for individual districts. The approved recommendation voted on last night by our BOE represents a measured, evidence
-based approach to returning students to our facilities in a manner that shows appropriate concern for their wellbeing, as well as for that of our staff and all CMS families. When local conditions indicate it is appropriate to bring larger numbers of students together in the classroom, we will make that recommendation to our Board.”
The Lincoln County Schools Board of Education will meet on Sept. 24 to review recommendations to bring back K-5 students under Plan A. The Union County Board of Education will meet Tuesday, Sept. 22 to discuss instructional plans for elementary, middle and high school students.
Iredell-Statesville Schools plan to have elementary school students back in the classroom full-time on October 5.
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.
Schools were asked to prepare for three plans:
- PLAN A: The first plan is in-person learning, which calls for all students and staff to return to school. Symptom screenings and health attestations will be required for use of school transportation under this plan.
- PLAN B: The second plan presents a scenario where all students would participate in a mix of in-classroom and remote learning. This plan involves some students potentially rotating schedules, with some students not coming onto campus at all.
- PLAN C: The third plan is virtual learning for all students, with staff assigned to remote instruction. Under this plan, no students or staff would be in school facilities or use school transportation.