Duke experts, bordering states lean towards local decisions for school reopening plans

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN)- Ahead of Gov. Roy Cooper’s announcement about the following school year, experts at Duke University weighed in about the need for local decisions when it comes to reopening plans.

Dr. Ibukun Christine Akinboyo, a medical director of pediatric infection prevention at Duke University Medical Center said it was important to avoid wide sweeping mandates.

“I’m not sure that mandating an in-person appearance allows each administrators, each group, each parent, each staff that are trying to figure out the best thing for a child, to be flexible in those options,” said Akinboyo. “I think we need to allow for some flexibility and we can’t have legal mandates that completely knock that out of the hands of the local administrators that are working on this.”

“We really need to proceed with caution and care and avoid broad, sweeping mandates about requiring schools to open. We are certainly very early in learning about the experience of children and their experience in school or congregate settings in the United States,” said Dr. Charlene Wong, a primary care pediatrician specializing in adolescent and young adult care.

Wong said it was also important to consider grade-levels when making decisions on schools. She has a child in kindergarten and another in daycare. “At their ages, it is really quite inappropriate, in my opinion, to try and distance learn,” Wong said.

She said it was important to develop a plan that considers vulnerable, special needs, or young children who are in most need of in-person learning.

Lisa Gennettian, associate professor of early learning policy studies in Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy, wanted to ensure that decisions made at the local level took into consideration the individual situations of each student.

“Having a companion strategy that will support equitable hybrid learning. That’s having a infrastructure outside of school that’s equitable: internet access, safe place to learn, quiet place to learn,” Gennettian said.

While there is pressure from the White House to reopen schools to support mental and social health of children, decisions on reopening are made at the state level. States across the country are developing your own plans.

See how some of North Carolina’s bordering states are tackling the upcoming school year below.

Georgia school reopening plans

In Georgia, local school districts have the authority to make decisions about their reopening while keeping state guidelines in mind. School districts can choose between a traditional, remote learning or hybrid setting.

South Carolina school reopening plans

In South Carolina, individual districts will have the final say in how they operate for the upcoming school year. School districts are required to announce their re-opening plan at least 20 days before the start of the school year. WCBD reported schools are encouraged to make decisions about opening based the extent of local COVID-19 spread.

Virginia school reopening plans

The Virginia Department of Education decided to leave final decisions about reopening up to local school boards. VDOE recommended a phased approach based on local public health conditions and concerns.

West Virginia school reopening plans

WOWK reported West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said state education leaders are now targeting September 8 as the official reopening date. It leaves less than two months for school boards to put safety protocols in place. The reopening date could change depending on how the pandemic situation changes.

Tennessee school reopening plans

The Tennessee Department of Education is published a guiding document to help schools develop their own plan to reopen. The document provides guidance on transportation, mental health and other COVID-19 pandemic considerations.

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