Gov. Roy Cooper appears unwilling to allow North Carolina’s 1.5 million public school children to return to school full-time this fall, and parents must prepare for the life-altering consequences of Cooper’s decisions which will be announced July 1.
In May, Civitas wrote how alarm bells were starting to go off for parents as Gov. Cooper began considering proposals that would limit access to school buildings, ban sports, marching band, and nearly all student activities if and when he allows children to return to school this fall for the 2020-2021 school year.
Parents wrote to Civitas about how much they disliked parts of Cooper’s plans; such as home bound learning, alternating schedules, and lost work time.
“All indications are that on July 1 ,Gov. Cooper will announce school buildings and buses can only open at 50% capacity, requiring students to attend school on split shifts or alternating days, although it is possible Cooper will order that schools start the year with remote learning only, we believe he will open schools, but just barely,” said Dr. Bob Luebke, director of policy and lead education analyst for the Civitas Institute. “This will be the nightmare scenario for working parents and a logistical and financial nightmare for local school districts.”
All 115 N.C. school districts must create three plans using Gov. Cooper’s mandates and COVID-19 metrics . Plan A is the least restrictive, requiring social distancing of students and staff, along with temperature checks, but all students can be on campus at one time.
Plan B requires extreme social distancing with only half of the students on campus at one time.
School buses would also be capped at 50% capacity and students would be required to always be 6 feet away from all other humans. This plan would also require that all sports, marching band, peer to peer tutoring and almost all other student activities be canceled.
Under Plan C, schools would use only remote learning for instruction.
Civitas spoke with multiple members of the North Carolina State Board of Education who were concerned about Cooper’s plans.
All indicated they saw no possibility that Cooper would choose the Plan A “minimal social distancing standard” that would allow schools to open at full capacity, and under conditions that are the closest to “normal.” Instead, they expected Cooper to order Plan B.
One state board member told Civitas, “We will be lucky if Cooper does not order ‘remote only.’”
The News and Observer reported on Tuesday, June 16:
Unless coronavirus metrics improve, the state is on pace to open under “Plan B,” where schools and buses would be required to operate at 50% capacity and students maintain 6 feet of social distancing.
In message after message, parents told Civitas what a nightmare the alternating days, and split schedules would be for their families:
Ken W. father of a 10th and a 6th grader in South Charlotte said:
“We are both working parents so this would not be a viable option. It would likely force us to seek another state to live.”
And Amber O, with a kindergartener and a 2nd grader talked about how the plan would be a severe hit to their family’s pocketbook:
“As a working mom, I would have no choice but to quit work and become a single income household. There is no way I could manage having two elementary kids go opposite days.”
Even if Gov. Cooper selects Plan B as expected, there is a good chance many school doors across North Carolina will still be closed come first day of school on August 17.
Governor Cooper’s school orders released through the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) are a bureaucratic nightmare, complete with 120 pages of mandates, rules, guidelines and suggestions. Dr. Luebke called the 120 page plan “unworkable,” and said it would cost millions and fail from day one.
“No school system could ever make this absurd plan work,” said Luebke. “How are parents supposed to manage several kids on different schedules? How are teachers supposed to keep 6 feet away from their students and check their temperatures? How are principals going to enforce extreme social distancing with kindergarteners, middle schoolers and high schoolers of dating age?”
The costs of implementing these plans are massive.
Guilford County Schools estimates it will cost $100 million dollars to comply with Gov. Cooper’s rules just to open the doors this fall. That is nearly $1,400 per student.
The only discretion school districts will have are enacting stricter standards or specifically full-time virtual learning, and Director of Education Studies for The John Locke Foundation Terry Stoops says some school districts will do just that:
“Given the difficulty of implementing social-distancing plans that adhere to DHHS guidelines, districts will have no choice but to employ full-time remote learning in the fall,” Stoops said.
Civitas continues to advocate for a simple policy solution that puts parents in control of their family’s destiny:
“If the science shows the students are not at particular risk, then parents do not need Gov. Cooper and the state to create havoc in their lives in the name of protecting them. The state should allow parents to return their children to school this fall as we traditionally know it; in-person instruction, sports, band, extracurricular activities along with reasonable precautions,” said Dr. Luebke.
“For the families who are uncomfortable with this, who still desire a school education, the State Department of Public Instruction should select and train some teachers in effective distance learning, offering families choices, letting them assume the level of risk with which they are comfortable, without further upending the lives of parents and deepening the economic destruction across the state.”
However, Gov. Cooper seems to have no interest in giving parents or local districts real options on how to respond to coronavirus.
If parents want to see their schools fully open this fall, want to see Friday night football games, and want to be able to work full time, then their only hope is for the General Assembly to step in.