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K-12 Must Heed Key Safety Measures: Cooper

North Carolina schools will open for in-person instruction under an updated Plan B that requires safety measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, such as face coverings will be required for teachers, staff and students.

“North Carolina schools will be open for both in-person and remote learning with key safety precautions to protect the health of our students, teachers, staff and families,” Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday during the briefing.

The Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit outlines the updated requirements for Plan B, which has been modified since it was released in June to make it more protective of public health.

“This is the plan B that we asked schools to prepare. In some measured, balanced approach that will allow children to attend, but provide important safety protocols, like fewer children in the classroom, social distancing face coverings, cleaning, and more,” he said.

“As a part of this plan we want local school districts to provide for remote learning options for any child that chooses it,” Cooper continued. “In addition, school districts will have the option of plan C, all remote learning, if that’s best for them.”

Cooper also announced that the state will remain in Safer At Home Phase 2 after the current Executive Order expires on Friday.

“As we continue to see rising case numbers and hospitalizations, we will stay in Safer At Home Phase 2 for three more weeks,” Cooper said in a statement. “Our re-opening priority is the school building doors, and in order for that to happen we have to work to stabilize our virus trends.”

State Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen and education and health leaders joined the governor Tuesday in the announcement.

“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.” said Cohen in a statement. “We will continue to follow the science and data and update recommendations as needed. We ask every North Carolinian to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 and follow the three W’s: Wear a face covering when in public, Wait 6 feet apart, Wash your hands.”

The state will provide at least five reusable face coverings for every student, teacher and school staff member in public schools and Cooper said during the briefing they are asking businesses to donate personal protective equipment to schools, just as they would other supplies.

Under Plan B, the state is requiring schools to follow these 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, the state strongly recommends schools implement the additional following safety measures:

  • 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

“In-person education is important for children, and it happens in the context of a community. This plan strikes the right balance between health and safety and the benefits of having children learn in the classroom. We must all continue with proven measures to reduce COVID-19 transmission like wearing a face covering, keeping distance between people, and frequent hand and surface cleanings so we can move closer to safely reopening public schools,” said Dr. Theresa Flynn, a practicing pediatrician who serves on the board for the North Carolina Pediatric Society.

“Educators and stakeholders across our state have worked tirelessly to reopen our school buildings safely for our students, teachers and staff. Today, we take another critical step towards that goal. We also know families need to choose the option that is best for their children, so all school districts will provide remote learning options,” State Board of Education Chairman Eric Davis said in a statement..

About the Author

Jennifer Allen

Born and raised in Swansboro, Jennifer Allen graduated from Appalachian State University in 2002 and picked up a second degree from UNC-Charlotte the following year. She joined the staff of the Carteret County News-Times in Morehead City in 2005 and completed her master's at UNC-Wilmington in 2008. Jenn spent nine years writing and editing at the News-Times before joining the staff at the Town of Beaufort in 2014, where she served as public information officer and town clerk. On June 1, 2017, Jenn came aboard as assistant editor for Coastal Review Online. She has also written for Our State Magazine and other regional and statewide publications. She lives in Morehead City with her fiancé and their pups, Z, Gus and Willa.