Reopening Plan Is Reasonable
Last updated 7/15/2020 at 3:57pm
The decision by Gov. Roy Cooper that schools should reopen next month under Plan B, which calls for both in-person and online instruction, is the most prudent one at this time.
Plan A, which called for all students to attend school in-person, is too dangerous at this time. The number of COVID-19 cases, the percentage of postive tests and the hospitalization are all increasing. Under these circumstances, it would not be wise to compel all students in the state to return to the classroom because it would increase the chance of spreading the coronavirus among students, teachers and staff. Also, many parents may still want to keep their children home, and Plan A would have denied those children the opportunity to receive instruction online.
Plan C, which called for remote learning for all students, would have been detrimental for many students. As Cooper, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Mandy Cohen and pediatricians across the country have noted, it is also harmful for students not to be in school. Millions of students fell behind academically this spring when remote learning was implemented for the last three months of school. Schools provide more than just academics. They provide social, emotional and physical development, as well as balanced meals and support for children who face other difficulties.
To their credit, public health officials and educational leaders have been working collaboratively on plans to reopen schools. By listening to the concerns of each other, they have made compromises that protect the safety of students and school staff while attempting to minimize the effects of certain health protocols on the educational process. For example, according to CDC guidelines, children should be 6 feet apart. With that guideline, only eight children could be seated on a 72-passenger bus. North Carolina State Board of Education Chairman Eric Davis requested revisions to the 6-foot requirement. The state Department of Health and Human Services agreed to a revision that allows one person per seat with exceptions granted to riders from the same household. The revision, however, requires drivers and riders to wear facemasks.
Plan B provides flexbility. It returns much of the decision-making process to local school boards and administrators, who should know what is best for their communities. Each school district within the state can determine the extent and means in which it holds in-person classes. In counties, where the presence of COVID-19 is minimal and cases are stable, school districts may seek to have in-person instruction at all grade levels. In districts where the virus is more prevalent and cases are increasing, school boards may implement plans in which there is less in-person instruction. According to Cooper, some school districts are focusing on having in-person instruction in their elementary schools because younger children are less likely to contract and spread the disease while emphasizing remote learning in the high schools. If individual schools want to split the amount of time students are actually in the classroom, they can choose to split days, or have students attend every other day or every other week, etc.
Plan B is not without its challenges. It would have been easier for school systems if either Plan A or Plan C would have been chosen. With Plan B, teachers have to prepare both in-person and online instructions, thus increasing their workload. It also complicates the logistics for school systems in determining the number of students riding buses and eating meals onsite.
There are also practical problems, such as how to keep masks on students in grades K-2. Young children are more adaptable than adults and maybe some ingenious teachers will be able to convince their K-2 students they are practicing being doctors, nurses, astronauts or some other profession in which face coverings are common, but it’s not going to be easy.
The fact is that no matter what plans are instituted at the state and local levels, there will be major problems that have to be resolved. We need to be patient and supportive as those issues are resolved.
At this point in time, Plan B provides the best option to meet the needs of all students – those who need in-person instruction as well as those who wish to stay at home – while also taking steps to protect children, teachers and staff.