N.C. Governor Roy Cooper has announced all public K-5 schools can reopen in-person at full capacity beginning Oct. 5.
At the elementary level, mask and social distancing requirements for students and staff members still apply but capacity requirements do not. This means elementary facilities can allow students at 100% of building capacity but still must provide a virtual learning option for families that choose to stay home.
Cooper’s Thursday announcement simply gives public districts the option to enact “Plan A” in elementary schools.
On July 14, Cooper previously announced the state would reopen schools under “Plan B,” allowing districts to choose either a fully-remote reopening plan or a hybrid learning plan, including both in-person and virtual classes. This marks the first time “Plan A” has become available to districts.
“I want to be clear: ‘Plan A’ may not be right at this time for many school districts and for every family,” Cooper said.
Middle and high schools will remain under the same previous requirements, with districts able to choose between Plan B and Plan C.
Many districts, including Brunswick and New Hanover County, chose to begin the school year virtually, opting to delay in-person reopening by at least the first grading period. Some public districts, private, and charter schools did begin the school year including in-person learning. Earlier this month, Pender County Schools asked 29 students and eight staff members at Topsail Elementary School to quaratine after being exposed to a Covid-19-positive individual.
N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen emphasized it is still important for elementary school students and staff members to wear masks in the classroom.
“This is a science and research-based decision. Not an opinion,” Cohen said while explaining why children must wear masks.
Younger children transmit the virus less often than older children and adults, Cohen said. Still, young children can transmit the virus, which means risks are still not eliminated. This is why safety protocols must still be followed at the elementary level, she said.
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