Cooper: Schools decision ‘a couple of weeks away’

Gov. Roy Cooper briefs media at the Emergency Operations Center on Wednesday, June 24, 2020 in Raleigh, N.C. Photo via N.C. Dept of Public Safety

RALEIGH – Gov. Roy Cooper stressed during Wednesday’s media briefing from the Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh that leaders from his administration were still working on the exact path reopening schools would take for the upcoming school year.

“We want to get our students back in the classroom, and we want to make sure we get this right. My number one opening priority is classroom doors,” said Cooper. “We encourage our public schools to continue planning, with a special focus on how teachers, staff, and students can best be protected – especially those who are high-risk.”

While Cooper had suggested for weeks the decision would be made on July 1, word came Tuesday night that the decision would not be announced today or even this week.

During the question-and-answer portion of today’s briefing, Cooper said he and his administration were continuing to wait and see what trends looked like closer to August, and that they were still learning more about the virus and wanted buy-in from “across the board” before making a decision.

In June, the state released the Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit laying out health practices for schools to reopen safely. Schools were asked to prepare three plans: Plan A – in-person learning with key health and safety rules in place. Plan B – same as Plan A, but with fewer children in the classroom at one time. And Plan C – remote learning for all students.

“This is a living document,” Superintendent Mark Johnson said in June. “It’s not set in stone. Our goal is to provide a roadmap that supports reopening schools to make this enormous task less difficult for our districts, schools and communities.”

N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services Deputy Chief Susan Perry also said in June the plan option chosen will be made for the entire state. She also said that once schools open, the plan can change at any time, and which plan is used will be dictated by the governor’s office and NCDHHS.

“We need to do everything within our collective power so that our children can return to in-person instruction,” said NCDHHS Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen. “We can do that with the scientifically proven protective measures in the Strong Schools NC guidance and all of us practicing the 3W’s.”

Cooper added that a select number of schools starting their school year in the month of July would use remote learning only until the final decision for schools across the state is made.

N.C. Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said the state distributed supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) to schools for use in the upcoming school year to keep students safe and healthy. These PPE Starter Packs, according to Sprayberry, include a two-month supply of thermometers, surgical masks, face shields & gowns to school systems and charter schools, for school nurses and delegated staff who provide health care to students for the 2020-2021 school year.

In total, the shipments include more than 16,500 thermometers, 7,200 face shields, 81,000 gowns and more than 347,000 surgical masks.