Gov. Cooper urges schools to provide in-person learning

Published 4:51 pm Tuesday, February 2, 2021

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RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday urged all North Carolina public school districts to provide in-person learning for their students.

Cooper joined state public health and education leaders in saying that schools should bring students back into the classroom while continuing to offer remote learning options for families who aren’t ready to return to traditional classes.

“We’ve learned much more about this virus, and now it’s time to get our children back into the classroom,” Cooper said.

North Carolina public schools switched to remote learning at the onset of the pandemic last spring. Districts were eventually given some flexibility in crafting their plans for the 2020-21 school year. In Beaufort County, K-5 students are currently eligible to attend in-person classes four days per week. Middle and high school students are separated into two groups that alternate between face-to-face and remote learning. Wednesdays are remote learning days for all grade levels.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen cited studies showing low rates of COVID-19 transmission among students.

“A study by North Carolina’s ABC Collaborative found that if someone who is attending school had COVID-19, it was very unlikely that they got COVID-19 at school, or that they gave it to anyone else at the school,” Cohen said. “And in the schools that the Collaborative studied, there were no cases of student-to-staff transmission.

“This is consistent with other studies in the United States and around the world that show children rarely transmit COVID-19 to other children, and rarely transmit it to adults in an in-person school setting.”

Cohen added that there have been “few” COVID-19 clusters in the state’s public schools.

State Superintendent Catherine Truitt said public schools face a “challenging pathway ahead.”

“Even before the COVID crisis, a majority of our students were already behind in reading and math proficiency,” Truitt said. “Imagine what has happened after nearly a year of remote learning. We also know that remote learning and this pandemic have taken a tremendous toll on thousands and thousands of families, disrupting jobs, child care, health care, social networks and even food security.”

Republicans in the N.C. Senate recently filed Senate Bill 37, which would require public schools to give students with exceptional need access to in-person classes under Plan A (minimal social distancing). K-12 students would also be able to return to in-person classes under Plan A or Plan B (moderate social distancing).

“I don’t think that’s the way to go,” Cooper said. “I think the way to go is to get our local school boards to take this action. And I believe that many of them — most of them will do so, and hopefully all of them will do so, because it’s the right thing to do.”