RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper announced that K-12 public school buildings will remain closed until the end of the semester during a press conference on Friday, April 24.
The 1.5 million public school students in North Carolina will finish out the semester via online learning. The current semester is expected to end on or around June 11, depending on each school system’s own school make-up schedule.
“Classrooms may be closed, but the learning is not over,” Cooper said.
Gov. Cooper first closed public schools on March 14 through and executive order. The closure, which was initially enacted for two weeks, was extended until May 15. The current government mandate extends the closure indefinitely.
Gov. Cooper stated that the eventual opening of public schools in the fall, and the opening of summer camps, will depend largely on whether or not the state meets the reopening guidelines the Governor put forth on Thursday, April 23.
Following the announcement, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association also announced the cancellation of winter and spring sports for the remainder of the academic year.
“In keeping with Governor Roy Cooper’s announcement today that the public schools of North Carolina will be closed to in-person learning for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) has canceled all remaining winter championships and spring sports,” the association said in a released statement.
State School Superintendent Mark Johnson added during the news conference that there was hope to be able to resume the school year with students back in session, but that the continued threat of COVID-19 could not make that option feasible.
“Teachers, staff, and students were hopeful that they could return to the classroom, but that is just not practical at this point,” Johnson said. “However, I want to assure everyone that this will not be the new normal. While this crisis has forced us to be reactive over the last month, plans for next school year are already under way and will be proactive. We will share more on these proactive measures soon.”
The Avery County school system has responded to the closure by providing students online learning materials as well as physical study packets for students who cannot get online. The school system has also been delivering meals to students via its busing system.
“Since our neighboring states recently made a similar decision, today’s announcement by Governor Cooper does not come as a surprise,” Avery County Schools Superintendent Dr. Dan Brigman said in a statement on April 24. “We are very fortunate in Avery County to have effective and efficient processes under way to distribute meals and provide instructional materials and support to all students. We will continue with these processes through May 27.”
Brigman also outlined plans for the conclusion of the academic year, as well as for high school graduation.
“We will be collecting student computers on May 26 and 27, bringing a close to the current academic year. Our high school seniors will be honored during a ‘nontraditional’ graduation ceremony to be held at MacRae Meadows on Friday, May 29,” Brigman added. “We greatly appreciate the tremendous outpouring of support from our students, parents, employees, and the community during this time of uncertainty. Thank you for your continued patience and understanding as we approach the end of the current school year and begin planning for the return of students in August.”
In addition to the immediate future plans for state education, Cooper announced during his briefing a funding bill he will send to the General Assembly for consideration. If passed, the funding package would access $1.4 billion in federal funds made available through the CARES Act.
The bill would provide $313 million for public health and safety. The areas covered in this category include public health, mental health, crisis services, additional medical costs, food, shelter, safety, childcare, funds for additional testing, tracing and personal protective equipment, as well as funds for school nutrition and rural and underserved communities.
Education and government services would be funded with an additional $740.1 million covering higher education, state agency revenue loss, government operations and transportation operations, which includes ongoing infrastructure projects.
Lastly, the bill would provide $373 million in direct government assistance to small businesses and local governments. The Golden Leaf program would receive $75 million, while $300 million would be made available for government assistance.
The next legislative session of the General Assembly was slated to begin on Tuesday, April 28.