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Students may only be in school part time next year if coronavirus metrics aren't favorable

Johnson says which scenario school districts will have to abide by will depend on the coronavirus metrics in the state.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — On Thursday, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction released a three-pronged plan for reopening schools in the fall in the midst of the coronavirus. 

It details three possible scenarios of what the school year might look like.

“Covid-19 is still out there, how do we get students back to school as safely as possible,” said North Carolina superintendent of public instruction Mark Johnson.

Johnson says which scenario school districts will have to abide by will depend on the coronavirus metrics in the state.

“The governor will pick plan A plan B or Plan C,” Johnson said.

Plan A would be closest to normal. All students would be allowed in the building with social distancing in hallways and cafeterias and daily temperature checks.

“You’ll have a little more leeway to make sure we can get all the students into a classroom and space them out, even if its not 6 feet apart,” Johnson said.

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Plan B requires 6 feet apart, which is a critical difference.

“Because we only have so much space, that limits how many students you can put in a school building,” Johnson said.

With Plan B, schools and buses would operate at 50% capacity, and students would only be allowed in the building on an alternating basis - otherwise learning online at home.

“Local school districts would have flexibility of what does that mean,” Johnson said. “[For example,] can we bring in half the students for 2 days a week and then they go home, or do we do that by the week? Do we ask high school students to stay home so those facilities can be used for younger students?”

For Plan C, learning would completely be from home.

“We hope we don’t get there, it’s basically what we had to do in March,” Johnson said.

If they do have to resort to Plan C Johnson says they will be better prepared for it.

“The switch to remote learning overnight, it did not go well,” Johnson admitted, “and we’re actually using federal relief dollars to make sure we improve remote learning.”

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Johnson says they are looking at strategies to help families with parents who cannot stay at home, if Plan B or C becomes necessary. Johnson says school districts will also have accommodations for students and teachers who just don’t feel comfortable returning back to school or are considered to be high-risk for the coronavirus.