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See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

Cooper Delays Much-Anticipated Announcement On Reopening NC Schools

Iredell-Statesville Schools
Iredell-Statesville Schools held a parent focus group Monday to discuss options for reopening.

Gov. Roy Cooper backed down Tuesday from a promise to announce a school reopening plan by July 1. Instead of the much-anticipated decision, his office sent a statement at 8:30 p.m. saying his Wednesday news conference "will not include an announcement on how statewide K-12 public schools will open this coming school year."

The delay comes less than six weeks before schools are scheduled to open Aug. 17 for 1.5 million North Carolina students. Local school districts were poised to roll out plans this week.

"Our basic plans are ready to go," Iredell-Statesville Schools board Chair Martin Page said Tuesday. He said he expected a sleepless night because the uncertainty has been so tough on everyone.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board called a meeting for 7 p.m. Wednesday, with the agenda calling for a vote on a reopening plan.

The statement from the governor's office includes no explanation for the delay and no revised date for a decision.

A source with knowledge of the discussions had heard that Cooper is still grappling with conflicting demands related to the spread of the coronavirus and the need to get students back to school.

As Cooper’s self-imposed deadline approached Tuesday, officials in North CarolinaSouth Carolina and Washington, D.C., warned that COVID-19 cases are rising and people need to wear masks and avoid crowds. 

All North Carolina districts and charter schools have been instructed to prepare three plans -- one for reopening at full capacity, one for opening at 50% capacity and one to continue remote learning, with buildings remaining closed.
Even the least-restrictive option would require additional sanitizing of schools and buses, health screenings as students arrive and restricted use of common spaces, including cafeterias. 

The middle path, which involves reopening with buildings and buses at 50% capacity, would require alternative scheduling. For instance, high schools could go virtual-only while middle and elementary students move into the larger buildings. Or all students could switch back and forth between virtual and in-person classes to reduce the number inside the building at one time.

The most extreme option would be to continue the remote learning that began in mid-March, when school buildings closed because of the virus.

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Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.