Gov. Roy Cooper was supposed to announce the state’s official back-to-school plan on Wednesday, July 1. However, that did not happen, and the lack of direction has led many students, parents, and administrators to search for answers. In his recent research brief on the subject, Dr. Terry Stoops writes:

Gov. Cooper told North Carolinians that they would announce their selection of one of these back-to-school options on July 1. The evening before the announcement, Cooper’s press office announced that he would delay his much-anticipated decision. It is still not clear why…

Delaying the announcement just weeks before the beginning of the school year has been Cooper’s biggest blunder and puts public school educators in a terrible bind. Year-round schools start this month, and the traditional calendar school year begins in around six weeks. According to Education Week, North Carolina is one of only five states to establish a statewide start date, and no state starts the school year earlier than North Carolina.

Previously, Cooper established that he was choosing between three plans: Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C. Plan A included a return to in-person schooling and minimal social distancing. Plan B included several potential options to return to school with moderate social distancing, and Plan C was a remote learning plan with maximum social distancing.

Each plan has its limitations. Stoops writes:

Many public school employees appear to favor full-time remote learning under Plan C.  They recognize the difficulty of implementing Plan A or Plan B and understandably fear that returning to in-person instruction will jeopardize for their own health and safety.

Yet, Plan C comes with challenges of its own.  Parents who do not have the flexibility to work from home, such as those who work in the service industry, run a small business, or work shifts, would have tough choices to make.  Plan C does the most harm to low- and middle-income households that have fewer child care and supervision options and often limited access to broadband and internet-accessible devices. These parents cannot afford to stay home to supervise remote learning.

No one can know when Cooper will make up his mind. This indecisiveness could push many families out of public schools. Dr. Stoops explains:

Indeed, those who can afford to stay home may simply choose to homeschool in response to the many “unknowns” of the new school year…An estimated 149,173 children attended homeschools last year, a 5% increase from the year before.  Yet, North Carolina may easily eclipse that number next year.  Yesterday, so many parents tried to file a notice of intent to homeschool that they broke the DNPE website.

Read the full brief here. Read Dr. Stoops’ comments to Carolina Journal on the subject here.