By Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice on July 1, 2020
Though he postponed a decision on how the state’s public school system will operate when it re-opens in August, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s remarks at his July 1 press briefing clearly telegraphed his desire and intention to open classrooms rather than utilize remote learning.
“We want our schools open for in-person instruction in August,” Cooper said firmly. “My number one opening priority is classroom doors.” At the briefing, the governor reviewed the three options for opening schools, which include in-person learning, a hybrid of some in-person and some remote learning, and remote learning only.
Cooper had been originally scheduled to announce a school-opening policy on July 1, but he delayed that decision, noting instead that such an announcement will come within the next few weeks.
The July 1 briefing came on a day when the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) reported the single highest daily number of new COVID-19 cases, 1,843, since the pandemic began. And Cooper did indicate that those few schools slated to start in July should conduct remote learning until he announces a formal decision on opening.
The governor’s desire to bring the state’s students back into the classroom was reinforced by NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, who said at the July 1 briefing that, “Schools are fundamental to childhood development and well-being.”
“The emerging scientific evidence suggests that going to school is less of a risk,” in terms of transmitting COVID-19, she continued, adding that children are less likely to be infected with the virus and less likely to transmit it.
In response to a reporter’s question, Cooper acknowledged that “a lot of teachers have expressed concerns about going back to school and doing it safely.” He also discussed the formidable tasks that need to be accomplished before opening schools — including providing protective equipment, working out social distancing measures and dealing with the issue of face coverings.
When asked if there was a chance that more bad news about the trajectory of COVID-19 in North Carolina could potentially preclude a return to classroom learning, Cooper responded that, “Of course it’s possible that we would not have in-person school if the numbers were bad.” But he added that state officials now know much more about the virus than they did when schools were closed back in March.