OVERDUE RELIEF: Cooper, Berger Announce Deal for Schools to Reopen

RALEIGH – Better late than never.

At a press conference with legislative leaders on Wednesday morning, Governor Roy Cooper announced that “most” schools, K-12, will open for in-person instruction based on legislation reached in compromise with Republican legislative leaders.

It’s welcome news for students and parents around the state that remain relegated to deficient virtual remote instruction. Even so, Cooper relenting to allow kids to return to school does not negate the months of blocking that very thing.

This announcement should have been made months ago.

That being said, overall the proposed legislation is very good for students anxious to get back in the classroom with their classmates.

The short version:

ALL K-5 elementary schools will be REQUIRED to open schools fully.

Middle and high schools will be prohibited from ‘remote only’ instruction; those districts must hold, either, full in-person instruction (like elementary schools) or a hybrid of in-person and virtual learning.

Under the proposal, the governor is afforded the power to shut a school district down if there is an ’emergency.’

In a vacuum, Cooper’s rhetoric here is solid. The vital need to get kids back in the classroom, because we know we can do so safely and the costs of closures have been too high, bears on us to act now. It’s too important.

Hear, hear.

Of course, these comments do not come in a vacuum. They exist in the context of Cooper refusing to acknowledge this long extant reality for months, in opposition to a majority of North Carolinians, in deference to radical, partisan political forces, and at the expense of our public school children.

Most recently, Governor Cooper vetoed Senate Bill 37, legislation that did virtually the same thing as this compromise deal. He said it did not have the proper safety guidelines in place for older students, but today’s announcement did not change that part of Republicans’ reopening proposal.

The difference? That bill removed his authority to unilaterally shut a school down. The compromise of this new deal is essentially that, as the GOP lawmakers relent and Cooper retains this emergency authority. However, it can only be exercised on a district by district basis and with official written justifications.

Cooper opened the press conference defending decisions to keep schools closed this long. “It saved lives,” he asserted without evidence.

Weeks ago, Cooper held a press conference that promised to yield an announcement much like today’s but was a mere tease and lip-service instead. In that announcement he referenced the ‘science and data,’ and specifically a massive study conducted in North Carolina that showed that fully reopened schools were remarkably safe for students AND staff. In fact, the schools are safer environments than than among the general population.

If that is true, how does shutting the schools down save lives?

Contrarily, the ‘science and data’ of these studies suggest the longer school closures persist, students and teachers were MORE at risk among the general population for coronavirus, not to mention the other risks associated for these kids.

Cooper ignored his own cited evidence for the safety of reopening schools, until now, when the overwhelming pressure of parents and politics forced him to finally acknowledge reality.

Still, (most) kids will be going back to school. Finally. Despite the struggles, suffering, and setbacks of the last year, that is a cause worthy of applause (just not undue praise).

Now the attention of parents should waste no time in demanding that what is being taught in public schools relates more to sound education than social justice indoctrination…

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