By JONAH LOSSIAH
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The countdown to the fall semester is getting unnervingly close for many in the North Carolina education system.
The biggest cause of the anxiety is the uncertainty as to what the fall semester will look like. There are several directions that the schools are preparing for – plans A, B, and C, respectively. N.C. Governor Roy Cooper was expected to announce his decision regarding the upcoming semester by July 1. That date has come, and the only announcement is that the decision has been pushed.
“Schools were asked to prepare three plans: The first plan is in-person learning with key health and safety rules in place. The second plan is the same as the first plan, but with fewer children in the classroom at one time. And the third plan is remote learning for all students,” said Governor Cooper.
“District and school administrators are still working on ways to implement those plans, and we’re asking them to keep using this time to work with teachers, staff, parents and public health officials to make sure that our schools are opening in the safest possible way.”
The Governor says that he will be making a statewide decision soon, but there is no date set at this time for the announcement. Gov. Cooper could be waiting to see just how the virus maintains over the next two weeks. North Carolina has had a considerable increase in cases over the last month.
On June 1, the state reported a total of 29,263 cases throughout all the counties. Since then, the numbers have more than doubled to 68,142 cases (as of July 2). This has to do with the progression of reopening across North Carolina, along with a significant increase in testing. Many residents are back at work and others are traveling to and from North Carolina.
In June, Gov. Cooper established a mask order for North Carolina that required citizens to wear a mask while out in public, with a few exceptions. Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed enacted a very similar order on the same day.
“Let me be clear: We want our schools open for in-person instruction in August. The classroom is the best place for children to learn. Recent reports recommend it, and I know many parents and children agree.” the Governor stated.
In the meantime, public schools are less than two months out from a start date. The reason for the discomfort is the idea that many superintendents believe the decision will be an ‘all-or-nothing’ approach. Meaning that the it will either be Plan A or C.
Plan A involves the appropriate social distancing and sanitary measures at schools with a full capacity. If the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise, this becomes a less likely option.
Plan C is remote learning only. This would mean that teachers and school systems would have to adapt everything for online and handout learning. This was the major impetus for getting the decision made early, for it would give everyone more time to prepare and shift curriculums. There is also the case of online availability. Many areas in North Carolina are lacking in appropriate internet needed for remote learning. There are current plans for mobile hotspots to be offered and distributed, but even that requires a strong enough service. This plan, while it is the safest, would increase the level of difficulty for schools significantly.
Cherokee Central Schools (CCS) has been working to create its plan for remote learning. School leaders discussed this in-depth at the past School Board meeting. Superintendent Michael Murray has been in virtual meetings to stay informed and stay ahead.
“Cherokee Central Schools administrators have been diligently working on parent surveys, collaborative discussions with all tribal entities, and complying with all CDC and health professional recommendations to create a plan that will allow us to do our best to ‘safely’ open,” said Superintendent Murray.
“The opening of our system will be driven by creating a safe environment for our children and school family. We will be sharing our re-entry plan with our School Board this month and will share with everyone as soon as the School Board reviews and approves. It is clear that parents, public leaders, and school personnel realize that extended learning packets/remote learning or virtual classrooms are no substitute for face to face classrooms.”
A decision from Gov. Cooper on the upcoming school semester is expected to come in mid-July. For CCS, there is a good chance they will follow the lead of the state. They don’t not have to abide by the North Carolina order, but they did so when the shutdowns first started.
The current start date for CCS is set for Aug. 17. Some schools are starting before this, as well, so a decision will certainly be expected sooner rather than later.
“A few schools are scheduled to start in July, and we ask that those schools conduct remote learning until the decision is made for in-person learning. Our goal remains getting children back in classroom for in-person instruction that’s safe for students and their teachers,” said Gov. Cooper.