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Governor Roy Cooper issued a new executive order that will keep K-12 schools closed longer than initially planned. In a news conference Monday, Cooper extended statewide public school closures until May 15, calling it a necessary measure to protect public health and safety from spreading coronavirus. 

“I’m not ready to give up on this year of school,” Cooper said. “However, we know the effects of this pandemic will not subside any time soon.”

Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health officials helped the governor’s team arrive at the new date, but he noted that the order can be adjusted if guidance changes around the rapidly evolving health crisis.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools have been closed since March 16, and campuses were previously ordered shut for a minimum of two weeks. Since then, in-person instruction has shifted to remote learning.

“I know many parents were expecting something like this,” he said before acknowledging that many parents have become homeschool teachers in the past week. “I know this is extremely difficult for you and your children, but this is what we need to do to help slow the spread of the virus.”

For some families, part of those difficulties included making sure their children could have meals during the school day. On March 17, CMS began distributing free meals at 70 district-identified schools to assist families with school-age children during the shutdown. It was a nod to the fact that, for some low-income families, public schools provide not just educational opportunities but child nutrition as well.

During Monday’s briefing, Cooper shared that 1,100 schools across the state have served more than 1.2 million meals as of March 22.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson and Board of Education Vice Chair Alan Duncan were on hand as part of the team working with legislators to figure out how to educate students through the remainder of the school year.

Last week, Johnson said it was clear to officials that the work would take multiple months, and planning was underway.

“We already have teams who have started the plans for schools and for the legislative requests that will be necessary for everything that being out of school until May or later may require,” he explained. “Eliminating testing. Calendar flexibility. Educator and staff compensation. And making sure that if you are a student who was going to graduate with the Class of 2020 this June, that you still will be on track to graduate this June.”

Duncan added, “We’re redefining ‘school’ this year and beyond. We are in stormy and uncharted waters. We most certainly will not hit every wave perfectly, but talk with us, and we will work to get through every one of these waves because our children deserve nothing less.”

Katrina covers Charlotte's Black business scene for QCity Metro. She's a Miami transplant, pescatarian and lover of the arts. She earned a public relations degree from the University of Florida. Got a...