NORTH CAROLINA, USA — North Carolina Governor 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.
"We know this coming school year will be like no other. Students and staff will be screened for illness before they enter the school. Children will be asked to stay distant from their classmates. They won’t be sharing pencils or textbooks. And there will be a lot of cleaning," Gov. Cooper said.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) released new health guidelines Monday as the first step for K-12 public schools to safely reopen for instruction for the 2020-21 school year.
The guidelines outline health practices all public schools should follow to minimize the risk of COVID-19 for students, staff, and families.
“Getting children back to school to learn is a high priority, but they must be able to do so in the safest way possible,” Governor Roy Cooper said.
The state will make the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit available for school systems to minimize the spread of COVID-19 while allowing in-person teaching to resume.
The Governor's office said schools are asked to plan for reopening under three scenarios:
- Plan A: Minimal Social Distancing
- Plan B: Moderate Social Distancing
- Plan C: Remote Learning Only
Gov. Cooper said the remaining plans could be needed if the state’s COVID-19 metrics change over time.
The NCDHHS will announce by July 1 which of the three plans should be implemented for schools to most safely reopen, after consulting with the State Board of Education and Department of Public Instruction.
The office said the StrongSchoolsNC Public Heath Toolkit (K-12) was developed using the most current CDC guidance for schools and includes requirements and recommendations for areas including:
- Social distancing and minimizing exposure
- Cloth face coverings
- Protecting vulnerable populations
- Cleaning and hygiene
- Monitoring for symptoms
- Handling suspected presumptive or confirmed positive cases of COVID-19
- Communication and combating misinformation
- Water and ventilation systems
- Coping and resilience
It requires students and others to be screened for illness before entering school and requires floor markings to maintain social distance among other guidelines. It also includes how to handle suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19, and a checklist of infection control supplies schools could need after reopening.
"Today, North Carolinians have the important first step of returning to schools in the fall with this release of the final health guidance for schools from the NC Department of Health and Human Services," State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson said.
“We are working together to balance the need for all of our children to get back to school – especially children who rely on public schools for their education, health, safety, and nutrition – while at the same time proceeding cautiously and deliberately to protect their health and safety,” State Board of Education Chair Eric Davis said.
The office said the public health toolkit was developed collaboratively by DHHS and DPI with input from a range of stakeholders across the state, including local superintendents, state board of education members, the governor’s teacher advisory council, and members of the governor’s COVID-19 Education and Nutrition Working Group.
Visit NCDHHS' website for more information.
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