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Gov. Cooper announces Plan B reopening option for North Carolina schools. Here's what it means.

North Carolina schools also have the option to continue virtual learning under Plan C.

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said the state is pushing forward with plans to reopen schools by the fall, which will include health screenings for students and social distancing guidelines depending on what option school districts choose. 

Cooper announced North Carolina schools will reopen under Plan B but will have the option to open under Plan C. Plan B is a more restrictive plan with lots of scheduling options. It also limits the number of students at schools and on buses. Plan C operates under virtual learning. 

RELATED: What you should know if your school district reopens under Plan C

“The most important opening is that of our classroom doors. Our schools provide more than academics; they are vital to our children's health, safety and emotional development,” Cooper said.

“After looking at the current scientific evidence and weighing the risks and benefits, we have decided to move forward with today’s balanced, flexible approach which allows for in-person instruction as long as key safety requirements are in place in addition to remote learning options,” North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said.

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Health leaders recommend schools allow families to opt-in to all-remote learning so students who don't feel comfortable returning to the classroom will have the option of virtual learning.

Cooper announced the state will give five reusable face coverings to every student, teacher and school staff member in the public schools' system.

Information provided by North Carolina's Guidebook for Reopening Schools

What You Should Know About Plan B

  • More restrictive plan
  • School facilities are open but social distancing is required
  • Limit density of people in school facilities to no more than 50% maximum occupancy 
  • Enhanced health protocols
  • Blended Learning for all

Plan B Key Safety Measures 

  • Require face coverings for all teachers and students K-12
  • Limit the total number of students, staff and visitors within a school building to the extent necessary to ensure 6 feet distance can be maintained when students/staff will be stationary
  • Conduct symptom screening, including temperature checks
  • Establish a process and dedicated space for people who are ill to isolate and have transportation plans for ill students
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in the school and transportation vehicles regularly
  • Require frequent hand washing throughout the school day and provide hand sanitizer at entrances and in every classroom
  • Discontinue activities that bring together large groups
  • Limit nonessential visitors and activities involving external groups
  • Discontinue use of self-service food or beverage distribution

In addition, schools are strongly recommended to follow additional safety measures that include:

  • Designate hallways and entrance/exit doors as one-way
  • Keep students and teachers in small groups that stay together as much as possible
  • Have meals delivered to the classroom or have students bring food back to the classroom if social distancing is not possible in the cafeteria
  • Discontinue activities that bring together large groups
  • Place physical barriers such as plexiglass at reception desks and similar areas

Plan B Scheduling Options

There are multiple scheduling options under Plan B for school districts to decide. This information was previously provided by the state.

Option A: This plan scheduling options are by grade span and grade level. Some students are on campus and others will take classes at home. Elementary and middle school students would use elementary, middle and high schools. High School students take all courses through remote learning. High Schools conduct on-campus labs for additional support. Some grade levels attend on-site, others remote.

Option B: This plan uses alternating days when students go to school by one day and by multiple days. It could be for a long duration or shorter time period to ease reopening and implement beginning of processes and procedures effectively. At all grade spans, students could be divided into different cohorts attending alternating days on-site and off-site.

Option C: This plan includes alternating weeks for when students go to school by one week or by two or more weeks. At all grade spans, students could be divided into different cohorts attending different weeks on-site and off-site.

Option D: This plan includes half-day rotation. Students would spend half the day on campus and half the day learning at home. At all levels, students would be in two cohorts. Cohorts would be half-day instruction on-site and half-day off-site per day and then rotate per day.

Option E: This plan includes teachers at all levels conducting video streams all day for live remote learning. Schools would decide which students and staff are at home or on campus.

Option F: Combination of options from above based on all local needs. Certain courses and content would be done off-site while others would be done on-site.

Plan B NCDHHS Requirements

  • Provide social distancing floor/seating markings in waiting and reception areas.
  • Mark 6 feet of spacing to remind students and staff to always stay 6 feet apart in lines and at other times when they may congregate.
  • Provide marks on the floors of restrooms and locker rooms to indicate proper social distancing.
  • Limit nonessential visitors and activities involving external groups or organizations.
  • Have staff monitor arrival and dismissal to discourage congregating and ensure students go straight from the vehicle to their classrooms and vice-versa.
  • Discontinue the use of any self-service food or beverage distribution in the cafeteria (e.g., food should be individually wrapped or served/handed directly to students) or at an event outside the typical school day. As always, ensure the safety of children with food allergies.
  • Ensure sufficient social distancing with at least 6 feet between people at all times in school facilities and on school transportation vehicles.
  • Limit density of people in school facilities and transportation vehicles to no greater than 50% maximum occupancy to ensure social distancing of at least 6 feet apart between people.

Plan C 

This means school facilities will remain closed if they pick this option. No students or employees will be in school buildings. It also means students will continue with remote learning. Remote learning will be based on the Remote Instruction Plans that were already submitted.

State Superintendent Mark Johnson issued the following statement about the reopening:

I want us to ensure that students and educators who want to safely return to in-person learning have that opportunity while schools also provide high-quality alternatives for students and teachers who may not yet feel comfortable returning to classrooms. I don’t support everything in Governor Cooper’s plan, but I am 100% supportive of North Carolina’s students, educators, and families and that we all work together to support our schools the best we can. 

While I am glad Governor Cooper provided more flexibility by lifting the 50% occupancy limits on schools, I would prefer we go further with a plan that is built around local control to facilitate greater flexibility for communities based on their metrics.  

Last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, and the School Superintendents Association issued a joint statement discouraging a one-size-fit-all approach for return to school decisions. Local school leaders, with the guidance of state health leaders and with input from their educators and parents, should determine the capacities of their districts to adapt safety protocols to make in-person learning safe and feasible, as the medical professionals, superintendents, and other education stakeholders suggest. 

Commissioner Que Tucker of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association issued the following statement:

“As was just shared by Governor Cooper, this decision on the starting of school for the 2020-2021 school year now puts us in a better position to make informed decisions concerning if, when, and how to resume athletic competition at NCHSAA member schools.

We will continue discussing the numerous options and scenarios that have been developed and recommended, identifying the most appropriate scenarios. The NCHSAA staff will work with the Board of Directors, Sports Medicine Advisory Committee and other stakeholder groups to solidify the details of the best plan for the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators and the communities the Association represents.

We know everyone is interested in start dates and protocols. The NCHSAA will provide further updates when they become available after Board discussion and action.”

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