Gov. Cooper closes public schools for remainder of school year


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Gov. Roy Cooper has closed public schools for in-person learning for the remainder of the school year.

“School classrooms may be closed, but the learning is not over,” Cooper said.

Cooper said the decision to close was made with help from State Superintendent Mark Johnson and the Chairman of the State Board of Education Eric Davis.

“We don’t make this decision lightly, but it’s important to protect the health and safety of our students and our school staff,” Cooper said.

On March 15, Cooper signed an executive order that closed K-12 public schools until March 30. He later extended that order.

“When we closed schools to in-person instruction last month, we knew it would be difficult for a lot of students, especially those who lack high-speed internet, good food or the safety and security that the school building offers,” Cooper said.

The governor said the COVID-19 pandemic will affect next school year – saying it will not be “business as usual.”

“There will be new measures in place to protect health when school buildings open again next year,” he said, noting kids may not be able to play sports and common areas at schools may have to close.

Superintendent Johnson told CBS17 plans are being made to try to address concerns about how to maintain social distancing, especially in crowded classrooms and hallways.

He said, “All this social distancing, how do you do that on a school bus? How do you do that in the classroom? How do you do that in a school cafeteria?”

Johnson added it’s likely next school year will have a mix of in-person and remote learning, noting some teachers, employees and families will still have concerns about returning to schools even when they reopen.

“What we’re living through right now is not the new normal. This is not what we need to expect next school year. We’re going to have solutions for parents,” he said.

Mark Jewell, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, said he agrees with the decision to keep schools closed. He added that the crisis has further exposed disparities that exist in the state when it comes to access to education.

“Poor rural communities and urban centers are not being treated equitably and don’t have the resources that some of our other communities do,” he said. “Educators are working harder than they ever have and longer than they ever have because they’re so accessible right now to make sure they meet the needs of their parents and their students.”

Gov. Cooper said Friday AT&T and the Duke Energy Foundation are donating internet hot spots to be equipped on school buses, which will travel to places that lack internet access so families can utilize them.

State legislators will consider next week allowing school districts to move up the start of next school year to August 17, a week earlier than they’re typically allowed.

It remains unclear whether in-person instruction will resume for year-round students when they start back in early summer. Gov. Cooper said a decision on summer school, camps and year-round schooling will come later.

Johnson said, “I would not bet money on it to go back the same way in any circumstance, but especially with July year-round schools it’s going to be a challenge.”

COVID-19 timeline

  • March 3: NCDHHS announces state’s first COVID-19 case
  • March 10: Gov. Roy Cooper declares State of Emergency
  • March 11: World Health Organization declares COVID-19 a pandemic
  • March 13: President Donald Trump declares a National Emergency
  • March 14: Cooper issues Executive Order 117 closing K-12 public schools until at least March 30 and banning gatherings of more than 100 people
  • March 16: NCDHHS recommends no mass gatherings for more than 50 people
  • March 17: Cooper issues Executive Order 118 limiting operations of restaurants and bars, and broadening unemployment insurance benefits
  • March 23: Cooper issues Executive Order 120 which closes public K-12 schools through May 15 and orders businesses such as barbershops and salons to close.
  • March 25: North Carolina reports its first coronavirus-related deaths
  • March 29: Trump extends social distancing orders through the end of April
  • March 31: Cooper signs Executive Order 124 which prohibits utilities from disconnecting people who are unable to pay during the pandemic.
  • April 7: Cooper will sign executive orders limiting customers in retailers and offers child care assistance to certain workers
  • April 14: Coronavirus-related deaths top 100 in North Carolina
  • April 24: Cooper extends stay-at-home order to May 8
  • May 5: Cooper announces Phase One of reopening will being May 8

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