At a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Governor Roy Cooper announced that public schools for grades K-12 could reopen in August with extra safety precautions, as well as the option for children to either attend in-person or stick to remote learning.
“In the spring, when this pandemic broke out, we made the difficult decision to close in-person learning and [transition] to remote learning only,” said Gov. Cooper. “The reality is that the disease is starting to spread throughout the country, but the good news is that we now know how to slow the spread… We plan to put those protections in place, and open schools in a careful way.”
“This is a measured, balanced approach that will allow children to attend school, but which will have safety protocols with fewer children in the classroom, [regular] cleaning, and social distancing.”
New guidelines that will be in place when public schools reopen in August include the following:
- Remote learning options for any child who chooses it, and individual school districts will also have the option to opt for Plan C, or all remote learning, if that’s the best plan for their community. Districts and schools can also form their own hybrid strategy, such as alternating days or weeks.
- Face coverings will be required for every teacher, staff, and student from kindergarten through high school. “Studies have shown overwhelmingly that face coverings reduce transmission,” noted Gov. Cooper.
- Schools will be required to limit the total number of people in the building so that 6-foot distancing is possible.
- Symptom screenings, including temperature checks, will be conducted daily as students enter the building, and schools will need a safe way to transport any child with symptoms home.
- Classrooms will be at 50% capacity.
- Schedules must allow for frequent handwashing, and schools will be cleaned regularly.
To assist with these procedures, the state will be providing at least five reusable face coverings for every student, teacher and staff member. A two-month supply of thermometers and medical-grade equipment for school nurses have already been provided.
Gov. Cooper noted that with the start of school a month away, if statewide trends spike and schools cannot open safely even with these protocals, then North Carolina will once again need to move to all-remote learning.
The governor also announced at the afternoon press conference that state’s Safer-at-Home Phase II, which was scheduled to expire on Friday, will be extended for an additional three weeks.
What’s included in Phase 2, which will continue until August 7:
- Mass gathering limits in Phase 2 include no more than 10 people indoors or 25 people outdoors in most circumstances. These limits apply to the following: event venues, conference centers, stadiums and sports arenas, amphitheaters, and groups at parks or beaches.
- Some businesses will continue to remain closed, including bars, night clubs, gyms and indoor fitness facilities, indoor entertainment venues such as movie theaters, and bowling alleys.
- Certain businesses can remain open at limited capacity with other requirements and recommendations including: restaurants at 50% dine-in capacity with distancing and cleaning requirements; personal care businesses, including salons and barbers, at 50% capacity with distancing and cleaning requirements; pools at 50% capacity with distancing and cleaning requirements. Employees of personal care businesses will be required to wear face coverings.
- Childcare facilities, day camps and overnight camps will remain open with enhanced cleaning and screening requirements. Retail businesses allowed to open in Phase 1 at 50% capacity will continue at that level.
- Public health recommendations are provided for worship services to practice enhanced social distancing and other cleaning and hygiene practices.