Uncertainty remains over the format of public schools in Wilkes and most of the rest of the state this fall as a result of Gov. Roy Cooper delaying a decision on the matter.
Instead of announcing his directive on a statewide operating plan on July 1 as expected, Cooper said it would come “in the next couple of weeks.”
He said he delayed the decision to get “more buy-in from teachers and people on the ground” and to make sure the right plan is chosen in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. All 115 public systems in the state are scheduled to start Aug. 17.
Reopening guidelines released in early June by state health and education officials require that local school districts develop details for each of three plans.
Plan A calls for all students to attend schools at the same time, but with social distancing, daily temperature checks and other measures to help prevent spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Plan B limits schools to 50% of their capacity, with student attendance alternating on portions of each day, week or month. Students would be in online classes while at home when not in their classrooms.
Plan C calls for remote learning rather than in-person classes until conditions improve. This was used for the last 2½ months of the 2019-20 school year.
None of the three plans received majority support in the Elon University Poll of 1,410 North Carolina adults, conducted June 24-25. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said they preferred Plan B, 34% said Plan A and 29% said Plan C.
State officials said the option used would depend on the COVID-19 pandemic status, with option C for the worst conditions. Cooper also many local-level decisions will be needed due to differences in school districts.
School systems may choose a more restrictive plan but not a more lenient option. If Cooper decides on Plan A, school systems can elect Plan B or Plan C and limit in-person instruction, partially or entirely. But if the state picks Plan C, every public school may only teach remotely.
The state is also requiring that public school staff and adult visitors and middle and high school students wear facial coverings when they are or may be within six feet of others, unless an exception applies. They are strongly encouraged for elementary students but not required.
Most school systems are awaiting Cooper’s decision before sharing reopening specifics, but some revealed details on their potential reopening plans.
Wake County school officials plan to operate on a three-week rotation schedule, with students having in-person learning for one week and online instruction for two weeks. The Durham County Schools will have in-person instruction for pre-K through eighth-grade students and online teaching for high school students, thus allowing officials to use high school facilities to reduce density for elementary and middle school students.
Cooper said on July 1 that in-person, classroom instruction is preferred, but it must be the appropriate choice health-wise. “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 with this.”
He said N.C Emergency Management is starting delivering a two-month supply of medical grade face shields, gowns and other protective wear to schools across the state. It’s for school nurses and other staff who provide health care to children.
Cooper said school districts have received access to statewide contracts for cost savings when they buy cloth face coverings, hand sanitizers and other health and hygiene supplies for staff and students. He said private companies are encouraged to make donations.
The News and Observer in Raleigh reported that the website for North Carolina families to register for home schooling this fall was down for nearly a week due to a surge of parental interest. The N.C. Division of Non-Public Education said the home school registration system wasn’t available between Wednesday and Monday “due to an overwhelming submission of Notices of Intent.” The site was up Tuesday morning.