Elementary school students will be able to return to the classroom at normal capacity in October, Governor Roy Cooper announced today, but will be required to wear masks and undergo symptom screenings for COVID-19. 

The shift, known as Plan A of the Governor’s phased school reopening plan, will begin October 5.

“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 at a Thursday press conference. “We have shown that listening to the science works. And I’m proud of our resolve.”

As of Thursday, nearly 190,000 North Carolinians have tested positive for COVID-19 and 3,180 people have died. Almost 900 people remain hospitalized with the virus. 

However, according to Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, the state is seeing coronavirus trends decreasing in recent weeks, allowing more students to return to the classroom.

“Our trends show that we are on the right track. It’s up to all of us to protect our progress [to]  help keep our school doors open,” Cohen said. 

Remote learning will still be an option for families that do not wish for their child to return to school. As per the plan, students will be required to wear face masks, practice social distancing, and undergo regular symptom screenings while on school grounds. The number of students in classrooms, however, will not be reduced.

Officials are working on a plan to gradually reintroduce students to the classroom, State Board of Education Chair Eric Davis said. 

“While we are anxious to return all students, we know that teachers, principals, and students need a gradual transition over the next 3 months,” Davis said. “I ask our parents to remain patient, knowing that we are moving as quickly as is safely possible.”

Learn more about the plan to reopen schools by visiting the state’s Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit

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