North Carolina’s K-12 students won’t be returning to their schools this academic year.
Today, Gov. Roy Cooper announced that schools statewide will remain closed for the rest of the 2019-2020 academic year, and students will continue remote learning. The announcement extends a previous order closing schools through May 15 due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
“We don’t make this decision lightly, but it’s important to protect the health and safety of our students and our school staff,” Cooper said via teleconference. He recited similar reasoning on Thursday as he extended the state’s shelter-in-place order.
Like the reopening of businesses, reopening schools will be determined by meeting health guidelines. State public health officials are also providing guidance for summer camps and other groups that use school facilities.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Earnest Winston says the district is pleased with the governor’s decision.
“I want to thank all the families and students for all the hard work they have been doing,” he said. “I also want to make sure that students and families understand we are not yet at summer break. Teachers will continue to teach, and it is my expectation that all students will engage.”
In a video message released Friday, Winston explained that the district is in talks about the grading policy for CMS students through the end of the school year.
CMS officials said pre-K through third-grade students can pick up learning packets at all elementary schools. Students in fourth through 12th grades with technology needs should reach out to their teachers.
During the teleconference, Cooper announced a partnership with AT&T and the Duke Energy Foundation to equip school buses with Wi-Fi for students without home internet access. AT&T will provide 100 hot spots while Duke Energy will provide 80. Cooper says additional partners are expected to join the effort.
Proposal for federal aid
Cooper also unveiled a $1.4 billion budget proposal from the state’s share of the federal CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund. It addressed funding needs in three key areas: public health and safety; continuity of operations for education and other state government services; and assistance to small businesses and local governments.
State Budget Director Charlie Perusse talked through recommendations of:
- $313 million for immediate public health and safety — including $78 million to continue providing meals to students; $75 million to support testing, tracing, trends analysis and supply personal protective equipment; and $25 million toward food, safety, shelter and child care.
- $740.4 million for continuity of operations for education and state government services — including $300 million for transportation operations; $243 million for K-12 public schools to enhance remote learning and prepare for next school year; and $77.4 million to help colleges and universities enhance online learning, sanitize classrooms and more.
- $300 million allocated to local governments based on population size, and $75 million for small-business assistance through the Golden LEAF program that provides bridge loans of up to $50,000 at zero interest and no payments for six months.
Perusse noted that his office has received over 3,000 applications from businesses in 98 of North Carolina’s 100 counties for the Golden LEAF funds.
“We know that people are hurting, businesses are struggling, and local governments are facing severe shortages. That’s why we have to act now to get resources in the hands of people and organizations that provide vital support,” Cooper said.
See the full budget breakdown here.