RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT) - Gov. Roy Cooper is urging all school districts in the state to provide in-person learning for some or all of their students.
“When the pandemic first hit in March, we moved to remote instruction to keep people safe from this virus we knew little about,” Cooper said in a news conference Tuesday. “We asked science and public health experts to develop safety plans to help students continue learning, whether in the classroom or at home. Learning has continued. Educators, parents and students have persevered. We have learned much more about this virus. And now it is time to get our children back in the classroom.
”... Students should still have the option of remote learning this school year if that is best for them. And teachers who are at risk should be providing that remote instruction. But students who are ready to return to the classrooms should have that chance.”
Research shows that, with preventative measures in place, there are low rates of transmission of COVID-19 in primary and secondary schools, according to Dr. Mandy Cohen, the secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
“Even with the thousands of students and teachers attending school in-person across the state, we have seen few COVID-19 clusters in our public schools,” Cohen said. “Our department will continue to serve our school communities, offering resources and support so we can keep our school doors open.”
On Tuesday, state health and education leaders sent the following letter to local school board members and superintendents:
The North Carolina Association of Educators, an education advocacy organization, responded to Cooper’s announcement by stating it is “impossible” for many schools to safely open without vaccinations for teachers and enforced social distancing.
“We, as NCAE, have said since the start of this pandemic that educators are eager to return to in-person instruction when it can be done safely. However, without the widespread vaccination of educators and strictly enforced social distancing, it is impossible for many schools to open safely, and for the schools that have been open, they need help,” said NCAE President Tamika Walker Kelly. “If Governor Cooper feels so strongly about resuming in-person instruction quickly, then he should support educators and immediately bring the full weight of his office to bear to get all educators vaccinated by the end of this month, just as 25 other states have been able to do. In the meantime, we encourage local school boards to continue to make decisions that protect students and educators based on local conditions. Particularly in light of the emerging and increasingly virulent strains of COVID, it is more critical than ever to have a flexible approach that can be adapted to whatever situation next emerges.”
Cooper said Tuesday that educators are among the essential workers in the next group to receive vaccines after front-line workers and people who are 65 or older.
Cohen said it would be several weeks before the state would be able to move forward and administer vaccines to the essential workers group.