Yesterday, Gov. Cooper announced his plans for the upcoming school year. The back to school options he presented earlier this month included three plans. Based on the governor’s guidance, on Aug. 17, the state will open for in-person and remote learning to the state’s nearly 1.6 million students using Plan B, which limits schools’ capacity to 50% and utilizes a blend of both in-person + remote learning. Plan B acts as a baseline that every school district must follow. However, if they choose, individual districts can opt for Plan C (fully remote), but no districts can fall below the baseline of Plan B. A state law passed earlier this year presumably prevents remote learning during the first five days of the school year.
So what does this mean? Under Plan B, every student, teacher, and school staff member will be required to wear face masks, and the state will provide at least five reusable face coverings for each person (more may be provided depending on funds). In addition, school nurses have received two months worth of medical supplies like thermometers. Schedules must allow time for hand washing and regular cleaning, and teachers will need to find ways to limit sharing between students. Similarly, non-essential visitors + activities will be limited.
School days will include daily symptom screenings, including temperature checks, and schools with students who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 will need to find ways to isolate those students. Superintendents will be encouraged to meet with teachers + staff regarding their plans for reopening.
Six feet of distance will be required within school buildings and classrooms. Schools will determine how to implement this, and ways could include things such as one-way hallways, entrances + exits. Similarly, students may be required to eat meals in the classroom to maintain social distancing.
Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of NCDHHS, said it’s important to note that these measures will mitigate, not eliminate, the health risks of reopening schools. She noted the importance and value of in-person education, such as its social and psychological benefits. Gov. Cooper said that should coronavirus cases continue to spike within the month preceding school’s opening, the state would move to Plan C.
In advance of its expiration on Fri., Gov. Cooper also announced that the state would remain in Safer at Home Phase 2 for three more weeks beginning Fri., July 17.