Gov. Cooper will not make announcement on plans for schools reopening at Wednesday news conference

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Local school districts have been finalizing reopening plans while they wait for Gov. Roy Cooper’s guidance.

While the governor was expected to announce Wednesday what schools would look like in North Carolina, his office said on Tuesday night he will not make an announcement on schools tomorrow.

The 3 p.m. Wednesday news conference will focus solely on COVID-19, but the governor knows questions about schools will come from media members in the Q&A and he will be addressing them, according to Ford Porter, spokesperson for the governor.

Piedmont schools scrambling to form reopening plans

School districts in the Piedmont are scrambling to form three reopening plans the governor ordered earlier this month. One for minimum social distancing, another for moderate social distancing and a third for remote learning. The deadline to submit the plans is July 1.

“I do not think it is reasonable to think we can open all at once,” said Dr. Angela Hairston, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools superintendent.

Rising COVID-19 cases are leaving district leaders at WSFCS skeptical.

“We don’t have great options, we have less-bad options,” said Elisabeth Motsinger, WSFCS board member.

From having all students back in school to having them learn from home, the in-between is the most difficult to plan and was the topic of Thursday’s COVID task force virtual meeting.

One question raised: what does opening schools at 50 percent capacity look like?

“I think it would be a very good idea to start with our younger children, phasing in and letting everybody else be remote,” Hairston said.

While an A-week/B-week schedule would be the most convenient option for teachers and allow students to learn in-person two weeks out of the month, Hairston fears what would happen to students who have to stay at home without supervision on their remote learning weeks.

“We have a significant population of parents who will be forced to leave children at home alone because they’re frontline workers, they cannot afford expensive childcare options, and so that really causes a safety issue,” Hairston said.

Another option is to have all kindergarten through 3rd graders back in school, with 4th and 5th graders spaced out at the middle schools and middle schoolers spaced out at the high schools. High school students would learn remotely.

In the Alamance-Burlington school district leaders have discussed a similar model but with alternating grades.

A lot of chatter, some progress, but plenty of work still to do as school leaders try to please as many people as possible.

“We need to be more servant minded. What can we do to help everybody else?” Hairston said.

Another big challenge district leaders are facing is transportation. If they limit students on bus routes, the school day would have to start later because it would take children longer to get to school and complete a health screening. There’s also the concern bus drivers are high risk for COVID-19.

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