Gov. Cooper delays decision on school reopening plans


PENDER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — There are less than seven weeks before the start of a new school year, and districts across North Carolina are still unsure if students will be allowed in classrooms. Now, Governor Roy Cooper is delaying making a decision.

Pender County Schools spokesman Alex Riley says he knows the uncertainty can be difficult on families.

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“Its not as simple as schools open or schools still closed or 50 percent. It sounds very simple, but it’s pretty complicated,” he said. “Once the governor comes out and makes a decision, I think families can start preliminary planning what things are going to look like next year.”

However, the governor’s decision will not come Wednesday as expected. According to a Tuesday night email from Cooper’s office, a press conference on Wednesday will not include an announcement about schools, leaving districts in the dark.

“Obviously it’s difficult not knowing exactly what’s going to happen,” Riley said.

Districts across the state have been tasked with forming plans for three options. Option A would allow all students back in school with increased social distancing.

“We know what we’re going to have to do there in terms of sanitation, keeping the kids socially distanced, things like that,” Riley said.

Option B would cut school and bus capacity to 50%, the other 50% would be remote learning. Riley says they aren’t sure yet exactly how they would implement that plan.

“How do you bring back 50 percent, do you do it by the week, do you do it by the day?” Riley added.

Option C is remote learning only. Riley says once the governor makes a decision about which plan to go with, Pender County Schools will be surveying parents about the details between July 13 – 17.

“We want to know if it’s option C, what can we do to make the distance learning process better? If it’s option B, what would work for families and for parents?” Riley said. “Would it be sending your child to school for an entire week and then having a week off before going back again? Would it be every other day and then rotating weeks? There’s a lot of different ways things could work there.”

If Option C were to be chosen, Riley acknowledged some families in Pender County do not have access to internet service. He says in the spring, Pender County Schools provided hot spots at all high schools and Penderlea School for students to use. They also offered physical packets for those students.

Internet access is also and issue in Columbus County. That district is also providing alternatives.

We have partnered with many businesses and organizations to provide drive-up access to the internet for students, and many of our local ISPs have offered very low rates for access,” superintendent Dr. Deanne Meadows said in a statement.

Meadows says like in Pender County, the issue is “as much one of availability as it is financial,” with 75 percent of students having internet access in their homes. Meadows says “We have plans in place to help those students without internet access by utilizing take home lessons in digital form, utilizing the off-line features of Chromebooks.”

School districts do have the option to implement stricter plans than the governor requires. In Pender County, Riley says that would depend on community feedback.

Riley also says they are looking into options for students that are not yet comfortable returning to school if the governor were to choose option A or B. He says any extracurricular programs or childcare services would also depend on that decision.

Click here for New Hanover County Schools’ plans.

Click here for the full statement from Columbus County Schools.

Click here for the full statement from Whiteville City Schools.

Here’s a statement from Bladen County Schools: “We are in the draft stage of our plans for reopening as outlined in the DHHS guidelines for minimal social distancing, moderate social distancing, and remote learning only. We anticipate having the final plans ready to share by the week of July 20. One of the components of the three plans (A, B, & C) is to survey staff, parents/families, and students to collect feedback and suggestions that will help us continue to improve blended and remote learning. The parent/family survey is scheduled to be released tomorrow – July 2. Additionally, we will administer a survey closer to August that will address internet access.”

Brunswick County Schools have not yet announced plans.