Governor Roy Cooper and state education leaders are calling on K-12 school districts across the state to allow in-person instruction for all students.

During his press conference on Tuesday, Cooper joined state health and education officials to emphasize the importance of ensuring all students have an opportunity to learn in a classroom.

Cooper said at least 90 of the state’s 115 school districts are providing in-person instruction for some or all of their students. He said new state research shows that in-person learning is working and that students can be in classrooms safely with the right safety protocols.

“Students should still have the option of remote learning this school year if that is best for them – and teachers who are at risk should be providing that remote instruction,” Cooper said. “But students who are ready to return to the classrooms should have that chance.”

Cooper said he wouldn’t mandate a return to classrooms for all students, saying the decision is best left to local school boards and school district administrators.

During the press conference, secretary of the state health department, Dr. Mandy Cohen, said there is increasing evidence that suggests there are low rates of COVID-19 transmission in primary and secondary school settings even with high rates of community transmission.

“Even with the thousands of students and teachers attending school in-person across the state, we have seen few COVID-19 clusters in our public schools,” said Cohen. “Our department will continue to serve our school communities, offering resources and support so we can keep our school doors open.”

Cohen said ongoing medical studies and peer-reviewed data affirm that children infected with COVID-19 generally have mild or no symptoms, and are less likely to spread the disease.

Before arriving at this decision to support the reopening of schools, Cooper said state health officials have worked closely with representatives from the Department of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education.

“For many schools, the logistics of returning to in-person instruction five days per week will be a challenge, but this is absolutely a challenge we must face head on so that all students have a chance to fulfill their potential,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt. “With strong prevention measures in place, and the scientific research to back them, now is the time to act. North Carolina’s students cannot lose any more time.”

North Carolina initially moved to a fully remote learning model last Spring and giving local school districts the flexibility to gradually return to the classroom in September.

Current state mandates allow in-person, full-time classes only for students through fifth grade, with local systems deciding what to offer. Middle school and high school classes must be either all remote or a mix of in-person and remote learning.

Despite select students having the option to attend classes in-person, State Board Chairman Eric Davis said that opportunity needs to be extended to everyone.

“We know that to equitably and fully address the needs of the whole child in every student, it is imperative that schools reopen for in-person instruction,” said State Board Chairman Eric Davis. “Since August, public school leaders have proven the merits of the safety protocols that have kept our schools safe for students and staff.”

On Tuesday, Governor Cooper, Superintendent Truitt, Chair Davis and Secretary Cohen sent a letter to local school board members and superintendents encouraging in-person instruction across the state.

Read the letter state leaders sent to school board members and superintendents here.

Lead photo via the North Carolina Department of Public Safety. does not charge subscription fees. You can support local journalism and our mission to serve the community. Contribute today – every single dollar matters.