By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
North Carolina public school students will be out of school for at least two more months due to the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed an executive order on Monday, March 23 extending the closure of all state public schools for in-person instruction until May 15. Shortly thereafter, Cherokee Central Schools (CCS) announced it will also be closed until May 15.
“Cherokee Central Schools pushed out three weeks worth of learning engagement packets prior to our closure,” Yona Wade, CCS community affairs director, said on Monday afternoon. “Additionally, our staff was asked to prepare packets giving us a total of eight weeks worth of work. With the fluidity of the situation, Cherokee Central continues to assess the situation and alter our plans as needed. Once our plan is finalized for the remainder of the year, we will share that plan with our CCS families.”
Gov. Cooper said during a news conference on Monday, March 23, “I’m not ready to give up on this year of school. However, we know that the effects of this pandemic will not subside anytime soon.”
He noted, “I know that many parents have been expecting something like this. Many of you have become homeschool teachers in the last week, and I know that this is extremely difficult for you and your children. But, this is what we need to do to stop the spread of the virus and I am committed to ensuring that our students get an education, and get as much education as they can, this year.”
As of Monday morning, N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported that there were 297 confirmed COVID-19 cases in 45 counties including four cases in Cherokee County and one each in Buncombe and Henderson counties. Mecklenburg County has the most confirmed cases with 79 followed by Wake County with 46.
According to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, “The North Carolina State Board of Education voted unanimously today (Monday) to seek a one-year waiver from the U.S. Department of Education for federal student testing and accountability requirements for the 2019-20 school year because of school closures ordered to combat COVID-19. Under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, all states are required to test students annually as an accountability measure of student and school performance.”
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos said in a statement on Friday, March 20 that affected schools will be able to bypass the standardized testing, “Students need to be focused on staying healthy and continuing to learn. Teachers need to be able to focus on remote learning and other adaptations. Neither students nor teachers need to be focused on high-stakes tests during this difficult time. Students are simply too unlikely to be able to perform their best in this environment.”
Part of Gov. Cooper’s executive order was to limit the amount of people legally allowed to gather to 50. In a tweet, he said, “Throughout this crisis, we have taken early, aggressive action to flatten the curve and prevent and spike in cases that would overwhelm our medical system and jeopardize the health of those who are ill.”
The order also mandates more business closures. “Because of their inability to conduct social distancing, this order also closes hair and nail salons, barber shops, and massage therapists as of 5 p.m. Wednesday (March 25),” he tweeted. “Along these lines, this order closes gyms, movie theaters, sweepstakes parlors, health clubs, and other similar facilities.”
Gov. Cooper’s executive order prompted the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) to halt all prep sports in the state until at least May 18.
Que Tucker, NCHSAA commissioner, said in a statement on Monday, “Having heard the updated information relative to schools remaining closed until the middle of May, NCHSAA interscholastic athletics will remain suspended until at least May 18. The NCHSAA Board of Directors and staff will use the next few weeks to weigh our future decisions based on the new directions given by Gov. Cooper, other government leaders, and organizations charged with public health and safety during this unprecedented time. Such decisions will include the possible resumption of spring sports competition and the possibility of holding the state basketball championships. While we remain hopeful that we will be able to resume competition, particularly for our senior student athletes, we also recognize the need to protect the health and safety of our students, coaches, and the communities we serve.”