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Gov. Cooper announces schools can move K-5 to plan A; school board vote needed locally

By Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

RALEIGH – Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday announced public schools can bring elementary students back to class five days a week, but making that happen locally will require a vote by the school board.

Most public school districts in the state began classes on Aug. 17, with many opting for a virtual-only option. Rowan-Salisbury Schools offered virtual options for students, but most have been attending school two days each week under the blended model. RSS Superintendent Lynn Moody said the district is still processing the announcement, which she called a surprise.

“We do not have any plans yet. We do not have a reaction yet,” Moody said, adding it would take action from the Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education to change the district’s attendance schedule.

Moody said she has been pleased with the district’s current plan, and the decision to make a change should be made with special consideration.

The next BOE meeting is scheduled for Sept. 28. Though, the board could call a special meeting beforehand.

In making the announcement, Cooper cited a low spread of COVID-19 in schools, with only a handful of clusters in the state recorded in schools by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services during the previous few weeks. The only Rowan County school with a reported cluster has been North Hills Christian School, a private Christian institution. The five cases were identified in staff members before classes began and did not affect students or the school’s ability to hold classes.

“We are able to open this option because most North Carolinians have doubled down on our safety and prevention measures and stabilized our numbers,” Cooper said. “North Carolinians are doing the hard work to improve our numbers and trends. Many people are wearing masks, keeping social distance and being careful to protect others as well as themselves. We have shown that listening to the science works. And I’m proud of our resolve.”

There was no announcement about allowing middle and high school student to return to five-day schedule. And Cooper said districts will still be able to choose between plans A (in-person), B (mixed) and C (all-virtual), for K-5 students.

State Superintendent Mark Johnson expressed support for the change. N.C. DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said the state has seen sustained “leveling or decreases” in key metrics.

Younger people seem to be less likely to spread, contract and become seriously ill due to COVID-19.

There have been nine deaths in Rowan County due to COVID-19 this week, but there’s been a decrease in new cases across as well as a declining percentage of positive tests. Congregate living facilities like nursing homes, though, have seen outbreaks more frequently.

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