WILMINGTON — North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced the state will again extend Phase 2, this time into August. Cooper also revealed his highly anticipated and once-delayed decision regarding public schools Tuesday, choosing “Plan B.”
Plan B includes a blended learning model, opening schools on alternating schedules at limited capacity. All K-12 students, teachers, and staff will be required to wear masks to limit the spread of Covid-19.
All students will be given the option for a remote-only learning experience. State leaders did not address whether public school staff members will be granted the same option.
School districts are also given the option to enact a remote-only protocol in accordance with local outbreak concerns.
No school districts are permitted to reopen fully and at full capacity, the option considered under “Plan A.” Should trends of Covid-19 cause renewed concern, Governor Cooper said schools should be prepared to shift back to a remote-only learning environment.
“We know schools will look a lot different this year. They have to in order to be safe and effective,” Cooper said at Tuesday’s press conference.
The state will provide at least five cloth face coverings for each student, teacher, and staff member.
Individual districts will have the flexibility to choose exactly how to alternate school schedules in order to meet limited capacity requirements. Capacity requirements will be limited to allow for 6 feet of social distancing. Some options include alternating A and B days or weeks. Districts have also considered and have the option to require remote-only learning in higher grade levels to allow more room for younger students that require more assistance.
All students and staff members will be screened for symptoms before entering school buildings, with temperature checks required.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said research suggests children are less likely to be infected with Covid-19. If infected, children experience less severe illness and are also less likely to spread it to others. This trend is particularly evident in younger, elementary-aged children, Cohen said.
Research also shows schools are considered a lower transmission setting and have not appeared to play a significant role in the spread of the virus, Cohen said.
“Missing school is actually harmful to children,” Cohen said. The social, emotional, physical, and mental health effects of being out of school can cause negative impacts on young children.
Eric Davis, Chairman of the State Board of Education, said the $360 million spent on preparing the state’s public schools to reopen is still not enough. Davis urged the federal government to close the funding gap created by the decrease in state revenues partnered by the increase in the need for support.
Cooper also announced a three-week extension of the standing stay-at-home order, which was scheduled to expire Friday. The second extension of phase two will last until at least August 7.
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