by Dr. Terry Stoops
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
Yesterday, the NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) released a guidance document for NC Pre-K, our state-funded preschool program.
The guidance for NC Pre-K classrooms is much different than that provided for K-12 public schools. In fact, preschool classrooms “operating in public schools are not expected to follow all requirements outlined in the K-12 public health guidance.” According to DHHS, here are the goals for the 2020-21 program year:
We know that our children learn best when they have the opportunity to be together with their classmates and teachers. COVID-19 has presented many challenges to the way we work, live, learn and socialize with each other. Our goals seek to provide as much stability and proven in-person instruction as possible as we navigate through the pandemic.
- All NC Pre-K students receive the benefit of fully in-person instruction to the fullest extent possible.
- All parents/guardians are offered the option of in-person instruction for the full program year.
- Recognizing the unique challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, remote learning will be available for all NC Pre-K students as an option of last resort and used as sparingly as possible (such as during time-limited school entry periods where schools are in remote learning only, during necessary quarantine periods.)
- All remote learning offered will meet standard quality measures that support children’s healthy development and engage families in their children’s learning.
According to DHHS, the program year “will operate for a full 36 weeks as usual, 6.5 hours per day, five days per week, beginning no later than September 8th.”
How do DHHS officials and Gov. Cooper square the NC Pre-K guidelines with the more restrictive guidance for K-12 public schools? Moreover, the “benefit of fully in-person instruction” is a laudable goal for a 4-year-old but not a 5-year-old?