Remote learning continues.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced Friday afternoon that the state’s K-12 public schools are shuttered for the remainder of the year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Cooper closed schools to in-person instruction in mid-March.
Since then, school administrators and local government officials statewide have worked around the clock to ensure that their students have received quality instruction through virtual learning, good meals and remained safe.
Locally, Wayne County Public Schools and United Way of Wayne County partnered together to create the “Park and Learn” initiative. Students were provided a list of WiFi hotspots where they could log on and complete their homework assignments.
“We thank all of our families who are working with their children and helping them stay connected to their virtual classrooms and/or keeping up with their printed learning resources during this time,” stated Wayne County Public Schools officials in a released statement.
To avoid further technology barriers, Cooper said that AT&T and Duke Energy Foundation have agreed to provide a total of 180 hotspots for use in school buses.
“NCAE applauds the Governor’s continued leadership on health, safety and access to education during this challenging time, and we look forward to working with the Governor and other state lawmakers to continue to react to this pandemic in as caring and humane a manner as possible,” said Mark Jewell, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators.
Cooper said the next academic year will not be “business as usual” and that the pandemic will be with the state’s residents for a long time. He expects the Department of Public Instruction and General Assembly to work together to find a way to safely open schools.
After consultation with General Assembly members in both the Republican and Democratic parties, Cooper released a proposed budget for the state that directs $1.4 billion in federal money to help North Carolina from the CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund.
The package funds three immediate areas of need:
“We know people are hurting, businesses are struggling and governments are facing severe shortages because of this virus,” Cooper said. “That’s why we must act now to get resources distributed in a smart, efficient way.”
Cooper’s decision to extend the “stay-at-home” order to May 8 and re-open the state in three phases last Thursday met the public’s ire and drew criticism from fellow politicians.
Phase I allowed commercial businesses, mainly retailers, to open their doors again. They’re responsible for setting social distancing guidelines and properly cleaning their stores. Employees must enhance their hygiene regimen and be screened for COVID-19 symptoms.
Gatherings are limited to no more than 10 people.
Republican Gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Dan Forest described Cooper’s approach as “one-size-fits-all” and said it was not necessary for a state as large as North Carolina.
“This decision will needlessly crush businesses and destroy livelihoods in places that don’t even have a single case of coronavirus,” Forest said. “We shouldn’t be holding back counties that are ready to safely re-open. The Governor should re-release the data he presented today at the county level so we can see which areas are ready to re-open without delay.”
The second phase can begin in approximately three weeks if signs of the virus continue to slow down. The third phase could start two to three weeks after Phase II.
“In all three phases, strict rules will continue to apply to nursing homes and other congregate living facilities,” Cooper said.