North Carolina K-12 public schools are allowed to open for in-person classes this fall, Gov. Roy Cooper announced in a press conference today. However, Cooper is giving school districts the flexibility to choose what plan is best for them.
Plan A was for schools to open with minimal social distancing and restrictions, but Cooper is requiring schools to follow Plan B or C.
Plan B gives school districts the option to hold in-person classes, but schools have to provide a remote option for families who want their students to stay home. Under Plan B, schools can also use a hybrid of in-person and remote learning. Plan C gives school districts the options to hold classes completely remote.
“North Carolina schools will be both open in-person and remote learning with precautions to protect the health of our students, teachers and staff,” Cooper said.
In a press release, the Alamance-Burlington School System announced it plans to reopen under Plan B, and students will alternate the days they physically come to school buildings.
Half of the student population will be in the building on Monday and Wednesday, and the other half on Tuesday and Thursday. The two groups will alternate Fridays. The district’s first day of school is still set for August 17.
Cooper said that if coronavirus numbers spike in the next month, all schools could be required to go to Plan C. In a statement to Elon News Network, Allison Gant, chair of the ABSS Board of Education, said the board recognizes this warning and is prepared to continue with distance learning.
“ABSS is committed to safety and will provide instruction to all students whether in person or remote and will work with teachers and staff that feel at risk as well,” Gant said.
Chantel Kielty ‘00, a third grade teacher at B. Everett Jordan Elementary School in Saxapahaw, said she isn’t sure if opening under Plan-B is the right choice for the district.
“I'm not ready to go back in the classroom because I know the germs are still out there, and they're still real,” Kielty said.
North Carolinians are split on K-12 schooling options. In a recent Elon University poll, 34% were in favor of returning to school full time, 29% were in favor of staying home full time and 38% were in favor of staying home part time.
Kielty said she is glad a decision was made so that she can mentally prepare for what she needs to do for her students. Before the press conference this afternoon, she said she was both nervous and anxious.
Kielty said she will be teaching full-time in the classroom, but her two children who go to ABSS schools will be staying home and completing the online curriculum. She said she’s more scared for her children’s health than her own.
Schools choosing Plan B will have to meet certain requirements, including universal face coverings, providing isolation areas for symptomatic students and temperature screenings before students enter the building.
The state is providing five cloth face masks — one for each day of the school week — to every student and faculty member.
Cooper also recommended all schools limit non-essential visitors and make all entrances and hallways one-way. He also said large group activities should be suspended if social distancing cannot be maintained. Schools are encouraged to have their students travel in small groups.
Kielty said she trusts ABSS is well prepared to keep up with cleanliness and mask usage in the fall. She credited Superintendent Bruce Benson, saying he has been preparing the most for Plan B because he knew it would be the hardest to plan for.
Kielty said she is also glad that schools can open under Plan B and still have an online option. She spoke to many parents who were planning on homeschooling their children if the schools fully reopened, and she said she hopes those parents will consider staying in the district now that the option is available.
“I know, being in the education world for 20 years, less students enrolled in a school means less teachers, so that would not help the schools at all,” Kielty said.
If Cooper changes his mind and decides schools must open under Plan C, Kielty said she would be fine with it. In April, Kielty told Elon News Network she was loving distance learning. Her opinion has not changed.
“I loved every bit of it all the way to the end,” Kielty said. “And I would love to do it. If that was going to be the option, I would continue to do it again.”
When asked about higher education institutions, Cooper said state health officials are providing guidance to colleges and universities, but final decisions lie with the institutions themselves.
Cooper also announced that North Carolina will remain in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening process, which was set to expire Friday. This is the second extension of Phase 2.