Parents, school districts, others react to Gov. Cooper’s announcement on schools

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Governor Roy Cooper announced Thursday that elementary schools will have the option to open for full-time in person learning.

WWAY reached out to parents for reaction. Those who responded approved of the announcement, but worried that their students would not be immediately impacted.

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The decision whether or not to open for full time in-person learning (Plan A), or remain in a hybrid (Plan B) or virtual learning only (Plan C) will be left up to each individual school district, and goes into effect October 5.

“Option A continues to include important safety measures like required face coverings for all students, teachers, and staff, social distancing and symptom screening,” Gov. Cooper said.

When discussing the decision, Gov. Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen cited decreasing case numbers in our state, and new data regarding young children and COVID-19.

“Younger children are less likely to become infected, less likely to have symptoms, experience severe disease, and less likely to spread the virus to others,” Cohen said.

Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest, running in the election against Gov. Cooper, released the following statement after the governor’s announcement:

“Yesterday, Gov. Cooper said it was dangerous to talk about reopening schools. Today, he said it was OK – at least for some schools. What changed? It does not need to be this complicated. Private schools in North Carolina have already figured out how to reopen safely. So have a majority of other states. It’s time to reopen all of our schools to give parents the option of in-person learning. Now.”

Middle and high schools must remain under the hybrid plan. 7th grade parent Heather McDaniels says her son has been struggling with remote learning and would greatly benefit from being in the classroom full time.

“For our school, they have cameras set up so they are doing the kids that are in the classroom, and the kids that are logged in online all at the same time,” she said. “So you’ve got the teacher, poor teacher, trying to multitask with two groups of kids.”

McDaniels hopes a similar announcement will come soon for middle and high school students.

“I would say November at the latest, get these older kids back into the classroom, because this has truly been a detriment to them, to the parents who have to stay home,” she said.

McDaniels isn’t alone. New Hanover County parent Andrea Cannistraci says the all-virtual learning has been a challenge.

“I’m a single mom, I’m working full time, my daughter is five, she’s in kindergarten,” she said. “She cannot do Zooms by herself, so I’m the teacher, let’s be honest.”

Cannistraci is concerned about the uncertainty over when New Hanover County schools will transition to Plan A, with Plan B set to take effect October 6.

“I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that we are allowed to send our children back to school full time and we’re prohibiting it,” Cannistraci said.

A spokesperson for New Hanover County Schools says the district is considering Plan A as an option. Options will be discussed and a recommendation will be brought to the board at the October 6 regular board meeting.

In the meantime, the district will hold several town halls for families regarding Plan B. You can read more about that here.

Pender County Schools released a statement, saying:

“Earlier today, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced that elementary schools in the state have the option to return to in-person learning on a full-time basis under Plan A guidelines beginning no earlier than October 5. At this time, Pender County Schools is working diligently with State and local officials to collect and review all the information related to this potential change. The district will have more details as further guidance is received. Thank you for your patience as we continue to work for the betterment of our students and community.”

Brunswick County Schools issued the following statement:

“We are currently reviewing the potential impacts of the governor’s announcement to allow all elementary students back in classrooms in October and will soon begin gathering information from stakeholders.  Brunswick County Schools will begin the A/B Alternating Day Schedule on Monday, September 21, 2020 as planned and we’ll continue to be as transparent as possible with all stakeholders involving the impacts and decisions as we adapt to any changes made moving forward.  More information will be coming next week.”