School reopening deal announced by Gov. Roy Cooper and state leaders

Gov. Roy Cooper and N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore are featured in this photo from the Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh. Photo via N.C. Dept. of Public Safety

RALEIGH – In a deal announced on Wednesday, March 10, Gov. Roy Cooper, legislative leaders of both parties, and State Superintendent Catherine Truitt, all students in K-12 N.C. public schools return to full-time in-person instruction.

State leaders discuss school reopening plans. Photo via A.P. Dillon, North State Journal

“More than a month ago, I stood up and strongly urged students to get back in the classrooms. Legislators introduced bills, and plans were made to get students back safely,” Gov. Cooper said. “Today, I’m pleased to stand with these leaders to get all students back safely and surely.”

In details announced at Bicentennial Plaza in downtown Raleigh, all elementary schools are required to go to Plan A of the state’s Strong Schools NC Public Health toolkit, and middle and high schools have the option to move to Plan A.

The schools who move to Plan A for middle and high school students are required to notify the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services and consult with their plans and must also cooperate with the ABC Science Collaborative to allow researchers to collect anonimized data.

Local districts can also still close schools in the event of COVID-19 outbreaks.

Additionally, IEP and 504 students will have a parental option to move their child to Plan A if their school district is still in Plan B.

As part of the deal, Gov. Cooper retains the authority to restrict operations by district but it must be done on a district-by-district basis and the governor must provide a rationale for doing so.

“All sides have seen and agreed to the language in the bill,” Berger said.

A day earlier, Gov. Cooper said during a COVID-19 briefing that getting students in classrooms was a top priority and discussions were ongoning with legislative leaders in both parties.

Senate Leader Phil Berger said he expected the bill agreed to by the parties involved will move through the N.C. Senate today and House Speaker Tim Moore said it would be approved in the N.C. House of Representatives either tonight or Thursday morning.

“We’ve heard from a lot of parents and a lot of schoolchildren, and I want to applaud families who are more engaged than ever in their future,” Sen. Deanna Ballard (R-Watauga) said.

Gov. Cooper said the effective date of the bill would be 21 days after he signs it into law.

“Today’s decision is about restoring choice to parents and students as well as providing greater flexibility to school districts,” Truitt said. “Today is about putting our students first. I’m glad to see the science prevail and grateful to see state leaders come together and transcend party lines for the sake of our students.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.