BEAUFORT — Carteret County school officials said they will review attendance plans based on Gov. Roy Cooper’s announcement Thursday afternoon that students in kindergarten through fifth grade could return to full-time, in-person learning in early October.
The plan is optional for state school districts and is not a mandate.
“Today I joined Dr. (Rob) Jackson to watch Governor Cooper’s press conference,” County Board of Education Chairperson John McLean said Thursday. “We learned the Governor will allow school systems the option to open elementary schools on Plan A beginning October 5.
“Our Board of Education will carefully review this information and will consider any changes in the current school schedule based on this latest update from the Governor,” he continued.
Dr. Jackson said, “We appreciate the flexibility given today by the Governor in allowing the local Boards of Education to make the best decisions for their areas. The Board of Education will carefully consider all options for educating the children of Carteret County and always keep the health and safety of children and employees the top priority.”
The Carteret County public school system has been operating under a hybrid plan of in-person learning at reduced capacity and remote learning since the opening of schools Aug. 17. Many parents have opted for their children to attend classes remotely only.
As of Thursday afternoon, there are 15 positive COVID cases reported in Carteret County schools.
Under the governor’s plan, all students and staff will be required to wear masks, and schools will have to follow social distancing, health screening and sanitation regulations, but there will be no restriction on the number of students in classrooms.
Middle and high school students will still not be able to return to class fulltime, Gov. Cooper said.
The governor established the hybrid system as the state’s baseline in July, saying districts could choose a more restrictive option of online-only classes, but couldn’t be more lenient and return to full-time, in-person classes.
In a press release from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson, he said, “It’s great news today that we are a step closer to providing the option of in-person learning to families who want their children to return to school. The option for remote learning remains in place for families who may not yet feel comfortable returning to schools. But we need to open our schools for students, teachers and parents who are ready to return.”
North Carolina Association of Educators President Tamika Walker Kelly, in a press statement, expressed concern about the decision.
"Local school districts already have significant flexibility to open for in-person instruction, and loosening guidelines further is flirting with danger," she said. “Maintaining a minimum 6-foot social distance at all times is a critical safety measure for both educators and students, and we will not recommend for any educator to enter a non-distancing classroom without a properly fitted N-95 mask to protect their health and the health of everyone around them.”
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