At a Thursday afternoon (Sept. 17th) briefing on the coronavirus, Governor Roy Cooper announced that effective October 5th, all school districts in North Carolina will have the option to bring students in grades K-5 back to school for in-person instruction under what has been called Plan A. The state had previously offered schools only the options of Plan B--a combination of in-school and remote learning, and Plan C, all remote. Lincoln County Schools had opted for Plan B while allowing those parents who felt unsafe sending their children back to class to continue all remote learning under Plan C.
The Lincoln County Schools administration announced Thursday evening (following Cooper's news conference) that the Board of Education will meet next Thursday morning (Sept. 24th) at 9 AM to review recommendations to bring back K-5 students under Plan A.
According to the news release, Plan A will continue to emphasize safety measures such as (but not limited to) required face coverings for all staff and students, social distancing and symptom screening.
“I am excited about this option for our K-5 students”, said Supt. Dr. Lory Morrow. “Please know there are still many unanswered questions and details that we will be working through to ensure we have the best possible outcome for our students. This option will bring us one step closer to students coming back to school for face to face instruction on a regular basis.”
Catawba County Schools put on their web page an announcement about the Governor's decision: "We are excited that we now have this option but we need to work with our local health department to weigh all aspects of our staff and students' health and safety. We do not yet have a timeline about when we will make any announcements."
Gaston County Schools and Cleveland County Schools had made no announcement as of Thursday night relative to the news from the Governor's briefing. Gaston County had 26 schools that had reported cases of COVID-19 after reopening under Plan B.
Lincoln Charter School, which had opted for Plan C to start the school year, sent a survey to LCS parents asking for their input before the Governor's announcement. It read in part: "While we have had some technology challenges (which is not unusual for the start of the year), we are developing routines that prioritize the academic growth and engagement of your child(ren). You should know that we are also surveying our teachers, our resident educational experts, to measure the success of eLearning, the growth of our students, and the social-emotional status of our students and staff.
"This survey will allow families to register for continued eLearning (if/when we transition to in-person classes). We know that some of our families are interested in continuing eLearning as the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve. We have committed to remote learning through the 1st quarter, and the School Board will revisit this decision at their meeting on Sept. 21st. If we move to in-person instruction, this survey offers the chance to register for the LCS eLearning Academy - our remote learning option. Families who opt into our eLearning Academy will make this commitment through the end of the second quarter (December 18)."
THURSDAY AFTERNOON ANNOUNCEMENT
After several weeks of stable COVID-19 trends and continued low virus spread in school settings, Governor Roy Cooper announced that beginning October 5th, North Carolina public school districts and charter schools can choose to implement Plan A for elementary schools (grades K-5). Plan A continues to include important safety measures like face coverings for all students, teachers and staff, social distancing, and symptom screening, but does not require schools to reduce the number of children in the classroom.
“We are able to open this option because most North Carolinians have doubled down on our safety and prevention measures and stabilized our numbers,” said Cooper. “North Carolinians are doing the hard work to improve our numbers and trends. Many people are wearing masks, keeping social distance and being careful to protect others as well as themselves. We have shown that listening to the science works; and I’m proud of our resolve.”
As the Governor announced in July, every district will continue to have flexibility to select Plan A, B or C based on their unique needs. In addition, districts should still provide an option for families to select all remote learning for their students.
Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the NC Department of Health and Human Services, explained that North Carolina has seen a sustained leveling or decrease of key metrics.
“Our trends show that we are on the right track. It’s up to all of us to protect our progress. Our individual actions like those 3Ws will help keep our school doors open.,” said Cohen.
Dr. Cohen also explained that as schools have opened, the current science shows that younger children are less likely to become infected, have symptoms, experience severe disease, or spread the virus.
“It’s great news that we are a step closer to providing the option of in-person learning to families who want their children to return to school,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson. “While the Governor, the State Board of Education, and I have our differences, I join with them to encourage local school board members to take advantage of this change and open all schools safely. I thank the many parents and teachers across North Carolina who have been vocal advocates on this important issue.”
“For the past six months, superintendents, principals, teachers and local school boards have worked diligently to care for the safety of our students and staff while educating our children. While we are anxious to return all students, we know that teachers, principals, and students need a gradual transition over the next three months. I ask our parents to remain patient, knowing that we are moving as quickly as is safely possible; and I ask our teachers to continue to assist our students by supporting this deliberate, thoughtful transition," said Eric Davis, Chairman of the State Board of Education.