State Leaders Call on Gov. Cooper to Give Parents Option of Full-Time, In-Person Instruction

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Remote learning is a failure for too many students; parents should have option to send children back to school

OECD study: “Estimated losses for this one-third year closure exceed 3%” of lifetime income

Harvard public health experts: “Some children may never recover”

Raleigh, N.C. — Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, Catherine Truitt, and parents of students today called on Gov. Roy Cooper to change his school policy to provide all parents with the option of full-time, in-person instruction for their children.

Under Gov. Cooper’s current policy, roughly two-thirds of North Carolina students are prohibited from obtaining in-person instruction.

Sen. Berger said, “For far too many kids, especially those from disadvantaged households who are already at risk of being left behind, virtual learning is a slow-motion train wreck from which, according to Harvard public health experts, ‘some children may never recover.’ Gov. Cooper created this mess, and he needs to fix it by directing school districts to accept students for full-time instruction if their parents choose it.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest said, “All over the state, parents are fed up by the virtual learning that Gov. Cooper’s plan has forced on North Carolina. We’ve known for months that closed schools don’t work for working families. They don’t work for children with special needs and IEPs. That don’t work for other students, either, especially low-income students who are already at risk of falling behind. We must reopen schools to give parents the option of sending their children to the classroom full-time.”

Catherine Truitt said, “The best form of local control is parents choosing what’s best for their children. Parents deserve the choice to send their children back to school if that is what they think is best.”

Several parents joined today’s press conference to share their stories about virtual learning. For example, Tara Deane has two adopted children with special needs. Her children have vision impairment, learning challenges, and autism, and virtual learning is simply not an option for them. Ms. Deane spoke about how her children have regressed, and about the urgent need to provide them with the instruction and social interaction they so critically need.

The plan called for today would provide every parent with the choice of full-time in-person instruction or virtual learning. Some parents prefer virtual instruction, and that is their choice. But many parents would also prefer full-time, in-person learning for their children, and they should have that option.

Sen. Berger added, “When it came to opening playgrounds, the Governor argued that counties couldn’t make the determinations for themselves. But on the politically charged issue of education, the Governor is all too quick to abandon his responsibilities and pass off blame to local districts. The Governor needs to stand up and give parents a choice.”

More Details on the Proposal

What about teachers who are afraid to return to work?

Teachers have been working as hard as they can to help their students get by with virtual learning. The failure of virtual learning is not the teachers’ fault. Schools in other parts of the country and the world have opened safely with precautions for teachers, just as other professions have done.

Many parents have already opted for full-time virtual learning. For example, in Wake County, 50 percent of students chose all-online instruction. School districts should assign teachers who fall into the higher-risk category to all-virtual instruction.

Don’t school districts need more money to open?

The legislature already allocated $840 million to school districts to deal with the pandemic. The legislature also passed legislation to hold districts’ ADM counts harmless at their request, effectively funding school districts based on 100% of in-person attendance. Since nowhere near 100% of students will opt to return full-time, and many may have decided to leave the public school system entirely, schools will not see a cut in state funding and should have what they need to open.

How is this different from what the Governor has already ordered?

Under the Governor’s orders, roughly two-thirds of North Carolina students are prohibited from in-person instruction. The proposal called for today would provide every parent with the option of full-time in-person instruction for their children.

What happens if there’s a COVID case at an open school?

There are numerous examples around the state and country that should serve as case studies in how to manage a COVID case in a school. For example, Thales Academy in North Carolina had a COVID case in a fourth-grade class. They sent the students in that class home for two weeks, thoroughly cleaned the classroom and the building, and then resumed instruction.

Mount Airy City Schools has essentially been operating under the plan proposed today since the school year began. Seventy-five percent of their students come to school every day for in-person instruction. There have been a couple of individual student COVID cases, but effective contact tracing and cleaning resulted in zero outbreaks.

The official Medium account for N.C. Senate Leader Phil Berger’s press office.

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