Cooper: Elementary students can return to school for in-person instruction under Plan A

Updated: Sep. 17, 2020 at 6:16 PM EDT
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT) - Beginning Oct. 5, public school districts in North Carolina will have the option to send elementary school students in grades K-5 to school full-time for in-person instruction which is known as Plan A, Governor Roy Cooper announced on Thursday.

Cooper added that students in grades 6-12 will continue to operate under either Plan B or Plan C.

“We are able to open this option because most North Carolinians have doubled down on our safety and prevention measures and stabilized our numbers. The science of lower viral spread among younger children also backs up this decision,” Cooper said during a news conference. “The number one opening priority during this pandemic has been our schools, and our continuing progress in fighting the spread of this virus is allowing us to do a little more.”

In July, Cooper announced that public school districts would have the flexibility to start the school year under Plan B (a mix of in-class and remote learning) with the option of choosing remote-only learning (Plan C).

Many school systems, like New Hanover County Schools, opted to start the school year under Plan C.

Earlier this week, the New Hanover County Board of Education voted 6-1 to allow its students to return to the classroom under Plan B at the beginning of the second grading period.

“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.

A spokesperson for Brunswick County Schools released the following statement regarding Cooper’s announcement:

We are currently reviewing the potential impacts of the governor’s announcement to allow all elementary students back in classrooms in October and will soon begin gathering information from stakeholders. Brunswick County Schools will begin the A/B Alternating Day Schedule on Monday, September 21, 2020 as planned and we’ll continue to be as transparent as possible with all stakeholders involving the impacts and decisions as we adapt to any changes made moving forward. More information will be coming next week.

A Pender County Schools spokesperson released the following statement:

Earlier today, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced that elementary schools in the state have the option to return to in-person learning on a full-time basis under Plan A guidelines beginning no earlier than October 5. At this time, Pender County Schools is working diligently with State and local officials to collect and review all the information related to this potential change. The district will have more details as further guidance is received. Thank you for your patience as we continue to work for the betterment of our students and community.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, said that North Carolina has seen a sustained leveling or decrease of key metrics associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our trends show that we are on the right track. It’s up to all of us to protect our progress. Our individual actions like those 3 Ws will help keep our school doors open,” said Cohen.

Cohen also 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.

“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,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson. “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."

The North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) responded to the proposal to reopen elementary schools for in-person learning with this statement:

“As NCAE has been saying since the start of this pandemic, returning to in-person instruction is the goal for every educator in North Carolina, but it must be done safely to ensure the health of both educators and students,” said NCAE President Tamika Walker Kelly. “Local school districts already have significant flexibility to open for in-person instruction, and loosening guidelines further is flirting with danger. Maintaining a minimum six-foot social distance at all times is a critical safety measure for both educators and students, and we will not recommend for any educator to enter a non-distancing classroom without a properly fitted N-95 mask to protect their health, and the health of everyone around them.”

NCAE is the state’s largest education advocacy organization for public school employees and represents active, retired, and student members.

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