State updates guidance, instructs schools to return students to the classroom

Updated state guidance says all K-12 schools should bring students back to classroom

RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT) - The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) released updated StrongSchoolsNC health guidance March 3 recommending K-12 schools return to in-person instruction “to the fullest extent possible.”

Current public health guidance recognizes the harmful effects of remote-only instruction, citing the negative impacts on academic and mental health and food insecurity.

The updated guidelines recommend remote learning be reserved for higher-risk students and families who wish to continue with remote learning.

Since implementation of the vaccine program, the state has seen a steady improvement in COVID-19 metrics and a continuing downward trend in new cases; these results support the move to reopen schools.

“Extensive research tells us we can bring students back to the classroom with the right measures in place,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. “And students need in-person school not only for academics, but to learn social skills, get reliable meals, and to continue to grow and thrive.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released operational strategy for K-12 schools on February 12 that noted the critical importance of school reopening for achieving the benefits of in-person learning and key support services.

The following expectations are outlined in the updated Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit:

Consistent with the CDC’s recommendations, the department’s updated guidance reinforces that all schools K-12 should be open to in-person instruction while still maintaining all mitigation measures, including the requirement for six feet of social distancing for middle and high school students only.
Consistent with the CDC’s recommendations, the department’s updated guidance reinforces that all schools K-12 should be open to in-person instruction while still maintaining all mitigation measures, including the requirement for six feet of social distancing for middle and high school students only. (Source: WECT)

Social distancing is seen as more important in the older age groups as studies have shown younger children are less likely to spread COVID-19.

All schools will continue to have flexibility regarding implementation of public health requirements and should refer to the Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit for guidelines that are consistent with the CDC’s recommendations.

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