RALEIGH – The anticipation from students, parents, and school officials was that Governor Roy Cooper would make an announcement at the COVID briefing that schools would be reopening. What was actually announced is so tied up in COVID red tape from the Department of Health and Human Services that it doesn’t enable much of a change at all.
It was a big tease, and a big let down, merely broaching the topic of reopening in-person instruction without actually enabling kids to go back to school. That left some school officials across the state frustrated that they’d been hoodwinked for a PR announcement.
From Carolina Coast Online:
“[…] it appears Carteret County Schools will continue on the schedule of having elementary students attend on Plan A, which allows all students to attend in person with as much social distancing as possible, and middle and high schools students on Plan B, which is a combination of in-person and remote instruction. There will continue to be a virtual option, as well.
“Quite frankly, we thought we would have the opportunity to be able to return all students to Plan A. As the governor began to speak his comments were a bit unclear,” Dr. Jackson [Superintendent of Carteret County Public Schools] said during the Tuesday County Board of Education meeting in Beaufort.
Dr. Jackson said just prior to the governor’s press conference, school districts received a document that contained a list of mandated guidelines and requirements from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services that districts must follow in order to allow all students to return to classrooms. Part of those guidelines state that middle school and high school students can only return to classrooms under Plan A if they maintain 6-foot social distancing at all times. Dr. Jackson said the school district would not be able to abide by that guideline if all middle and high school students return to class.
“We can’t get all of our students 6 feet apart,” he said. […]”
So, they can’t reopen. They can’t reopen because Governor Roy Cooper and his regime took the unilateral actions to close them and require arbitrary and restrictive measures of them such that they continue to be closed to full time in-person instruction. This announcement in no way granted these districts authority to reopen, according to Dr. Jackson.
“[…] without being able to meet the 6-foot guideline, it would be up to the governor to grant districts the flexibility to bring all students back without that restriction.
“We are waiting for the governor to grant that authority,” Dr. Jackson said.
He said he was especially frustrated because Gov. Cooper’s office had met Monday virtually with the state’s school superintendents and led them to believe they would be able to allow all students to return after today’s conference.
“I met with our middle school and high school principals this morning to develop a Plan A for reopening our middle and high schools,” he said. “Then, at 2 p.m. today the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services released the document, Public Health Toolkit for grades K-12, that outlines the plan we must follow.” […]”
In the face of overwhelming science and data showing us it is safe, schools remain closed because of the actions of Governor Cooper. And then he schedules a ‘reopening announcement’ only to reveal it is nothing of the sort.
That’s not say there won’t be some more honest reopening announcements in the near future. Republican N.C. Senator Deanna Ballard’s bill, the In-Person Learning Choice for Families Act or SB37, has been filed in that chamber.
The legislation, supported by Senate leadership as they critique the governor’s indecisiveness, would require school districts offer at least some in-person learning options. It pushes Plan A standards (basically a full reopen), but also offers Plan B as needed, which, because of social distancing standards, would only mean a partial, or rotating reopening.
Still, that would be a welcome change for many kids, parents, and teachers that have been 100 percent remote for months now. And it will lead to a result that Cooper’s inaction isn’t getting — open schools.