GOP lawmakers calling for reopening schools need to consider protections

As Republicans lawmakers are supporting an Aug. 17 opening date for the upcoming school year, a new poll finds North Carolinians are deeply divided about the best way to send students and teachers back. 

Currently, the state has required each school district to have three plans with different levels of social distancing. One plan puts all students in the classroom, another combines in-class learning with online learning. The third plan is all remote learning.

From The News & Observer:

“Local school board members and superintendents know the needs and challenges facing their communities far better than someone sitting inside the Raleigh beltway,” Truit, the chancellor of Western Governors University North Carolina, an online university, said in the release. “It is imperative that we allow local leaders to make local decisions, that parents be engaged in the process, and that our re-opening plan give students the hope they need to succeed.

“Then the State should respect whatever decision each school system makes and provide the support and guidance the system needs.”

School districts and charter schools across North Carolina are working on plans for how to reopen schools after having been closed since mid-March to try to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

According to the poll, 38 percent of North Carolinians prefer a hybrid approach, with K-12 students learning from home part of the time and learning in-person part of the time to allow for greater physical distancing inside school classrooms.

Decades of budget cuts by Republican lawmakers have already left public schools unable to handle disparities deepened by the pandemic, and must now scramble to obtain adequate resources for a safe reopening this coming fall.

In May, Senate leader Phil Berger stated that the state budget may limit education spending, despite lawmakers stalling since January to adhere to a court order in improving the state’s education system funding as required in the state’s constitution.

As state lawmakers push for a reopening of schools, their failure in providing equal and adequate resources to all students across North Carolina prior to the pandemic and during school does not go unnoticed. 

Before any further consideration, lawmakers need to consider vital protections and safety measures, along with adequate resources to all students that they continue to ignore. Now is the time for lawmakers to adhere to public health official’s warnings and collaborate with Gov. Roy Cooper to produce the most effective and safe plan for our teachers and students.

For lawmakers, the plan for reopening schools in the fall should not be political. A cautious and science based approach should be more important than vying for political points. For once, do what is right for our students and teachers.

Alanna Joyner

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