Remote learning will continue for rest of school year as Roy Cooper extends NC school closures

by Lindsay Marchello

Raleigh, NC – Students won’t return to classrooms this school year, but instead will continue learning from home. 

Initially, Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order closing schools would have expired May 15. He announced Friday, April 24, the order will continue through the 2019-20 school year. 

“The decision to finish the year by remote learning was not made lightly, but it is the right thing to do to protect our students, teachers, and communities,” Cooper said. 

Next school year won’t be business as usual, either, Cooper said. State health officials, the State Board of Education, and the Department of Public Instruction are working on a plan for reopening schools in the fall. 

Science and facts will serve as the base for reopening schools, but Cooper was vague on specific metrics to open the doors. Whether year-round schools can start in July is unclear. 

Cooper announced schools would be closed starting March 14, and they quickly had to transition to online learning. 

The State Board of Education on Thursday approved a statewide grading plan. K-5 students won’t be graded this school year, while middle-schoolers will be moved to a pass/withdraw system. High-schoolers will have the option to receive a letter grade this semester. 

Students who struggled this year may get the opportunity to take part in a summer “jumpstart” program, but the state education board and DPI are still working out details. 

Although an exact number isn’t known, many students don’t have internet access, Cooper said. AT&T and Duke Energy Foundation are providing the state with hotspots in buses for students who don’t have broadband at home or can’t go to a library. Duke Energy Foundation is providing 80 hotspots, and AT&T is providing 100.

The state will continue to look for private partnerships to address the connectivity issue, Cooper said. 

The COVID-19 crisis has forced the state to react quickly over the course of the past month, State Superintendent Mark Johnson said. It’s time, he said, to be proactive. 

Even though schools are closed, learning will continue, Cooper said. 

The governor revealed a budget proposal during the news conference to address COVID-19 relief efforts. Out of the $1.4 billion total, $313 million would go toward immediate public health and safety needs, $740.4 million for continuity of operations for education and state government services, and $375 million for small business and local government assistance. 

Legislative leaders from both parties have seen the proposal, Cooper said. 

The money would come from the CARES Act, Cooper said. The U.S. Department of the Treasury released guidance on how CARES Act money can be used. Money can’t be used to fill shortfalls in government revenue, but only for expenditures incurred from addressing the public health emergency. 

Brent Woodcox, a lawyer for Republican legislators, on Twitter said the guidance would bar the N.C. Department of Transportation or local governments from using federal money, as Cooper suggested in the budget proposal.

The General Assembly will convene in a short session Tuesday, April 28, to take up bills related to COVID-19.