CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is expected to lay out his plan for reopening schools across the state within the next two weeks, according to State Superintendent Mark Johnson.
The wait for Cooper's decision left parents and teachers in a holding pattern and the State Board of Education wants to make sure they're ready. The board is holding another meeting Thursday to focus on some of the budget challenges of reopening schools. The upcoming year is going to be a big challenge, regardless if it's in-person, remote or somewhere in between, and North Carolina school leaders are getting a math lesson of their own as they try to figure out how to pay for mounting costs costs to keep students and teachers safe.
A study shows the average school will have to pay an average $2,300 per student.
"This is something that is completely unprecedented for all of North Carolina and the United States," Johnson said.
Getting kids safely back in the classroom is proving to be one of the biggest challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. In an interview with WCNC Charlotte, Johnson said he thinks it's the best place for kids to be in the fall but it's going to come with a hefty price tag. The State Board of Education will dive into how federal funds for schools will be allocated.
“We are working to make sure there are contracts in place, statewide contracts, that will make it very easy for districts to very quickly buy the supplies they need to not only have face coverings for students but also the disinfectant supplies,” said Johnson.
A national teachers union did the math and estimated the average school will need an extra $1.2 million to cover those costs. "
"Luckily we haven't tapped into our federal funds but we will be using those funds to buy those supplies and we're watching it very closely because if those federal funds start to deplete very quickly, then we will need to work with the administration and congress to discuss possibly another federal package to get us through the school year,” said Johnson.
He said they are looking to use federal funding to expand remote learning options too. At this point, face coverings will be required for teachers, and middle and high school students.