North Carolina public schools to remain closed through end of academic year

Gov. Roy Cooper briefs media at the Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh. Photo via NC Dept of Public Safety

RALEIGH – Gov. Roy Cooper this afternoon made official a long-expected announcement that N.C. public schools will remain closed through the end of the 2019-20 academic school year.

Cooper first closed public schools on March 14 for two weeks. That order was subsequently extended to May 15. The State Board of Education adopted updated grading measures on Thursday giving high school students the option of letter grades over the summer. Middle and elementary school students will only receive passing of withdrawal grades.

“Together with State Superintendent Mark Johnson and State Board of Education chairman Eric Davis, we have decided to continue remote learning for the rest of the school year for our K-12 public schools” said Cooper at today’s press briefing.

Cooper began the press conference touting new partnerships with AT&T and Duke Energy to help students without broadband access and other ways to make remote learning more accessible. Cooper, Johnson, and Davis all emphasized that while school buildings would remain closed, remote learning would continue for students.

“Teachers, staff, and students were hopeful that they could return to the classroom, but that is just not practical at this point,” said Johnson. “However, I want to assure everyone that this will not be the new normal. While this crisis has forced us to be reactive over the last month, plans for next school year are already underway and will be proactive.”

“While school buildings will continue to be used strategically to address student needs (such as some schools continuing to serve as emergency child care sites) school employees will support students and provide supplemental remote learning opportunities until the scheduled end of each district’s school year” added Davis.

During the Q and A portion of the briefing, Cooper also said he would talk to Georgia governor Brian Kemp, saying he hoped the governor would “take a second look” at their reopening plans. The response came after a question from a reporter to Cooper regarding the quicker reopening plans of other states.

Also today during the press briefing, Cooper announced he was sending a $1.4 billion budget request to the General Assembly. The funding uses money allocated to the state from the CARES Act.

The budget request primarily covers three areas: public health and safety, continuity of operations for education and other state government services, and assistance to small businesses and local governments.

State budget director Charlie Perusse went through line items in the request, which Cooper said had already been presented to legislative leaders in both parties. The North Carolina House of Representatives has held meetings of their COVID-19 Select Committee since March. The General Assembly returns on Tuesday, April 28 to Raleigh.