by Dr. Terry Stoops
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
Below is a thoughtful letter on school reopening by Davidson County Board of Education member Neal N. Motsinger.
As school districts across the State of North Carolina wait on directions from Governor Cooper on what and how schools will operate this fall I have to question whether Governor Cooper has the best interest of students and parents as his main concern. Also, I question what Governor Cooper will base his decision on, will he look at countries that have started school or will he make a decision based on his beliefs of what is best?
First I think we should look at Governor Cooper’s decision to close schools as he announced at a news conference held on Saturday, March 14. Governor Cooper decided to close schools on the 14th without any advance notice to school districts across the state. Along without giving any advance notice, Governor Cooper mandated that school districts across the state provide online courses and distribute meals to students in the school districts, among many other requirements. All of that mandated without any advance notice! At the very least Governor Cooper should have contacted School Districts across the state at the beginning of the week and advised districts that he was contemplating closing schools on the 14th so districts could start preparing for the closure. I have to ask is that the actions of a good leader?
Now to what will occur in the fall. I hope before making a decision on how and if schools open in the fall Governor Cooper looks at other countries that have opened schools and even to what has happened in New York City. As reported on a national news show last Thursday, June 25, both France and Belgium have sent kids back to school with NO significant increase in Covid-19 cases among students. In New York City the YMCA of the USA and New York City’s Department of Education have been providing child care for tens of thousands of children of essential workers since March with ZERO cases of Covid-19 outbreaks, a fact that seems to have not been widely reported. Due to the lockdown in China, Chinese children have experienced a marked increase in depression among school age children. A pediatric doctor reported on the same show that kids are in fact NOT super spreaders of the virus. I believe any teacher will admit that there is NO replacement for teacher/student interaction and learning as received in a classroom setting, no online or virtual lesson can ever take the place of the classroom setting. Not only is the classroom setting essential for an education but it also is essential for social and emotional development among our students, without that interaction students will be lacking in those skills as well.
I can only hope Governor Cooper takes all of this into consideration when he decides on how and when to open schools. I would hope he would get input from both Administrations and Boards of Educations across the state before making such an important and far reaching decision. I would also urge the Governor to give local districts some leeway on how they operate, I believe local Boards of Education were elected to do what is best for their districts and no one in Raleigh can determine that better than the local Boards of Education, they know the conditions in their districts. After all, each local Board of Education is required to provide a sound education to their students. As it stands now if the Governor does decide to allow schools to start in the fall under plan A, one of the many restrictions schools will have to follow is social distancing on school buses which means Davidson County can have a maximum of 22 kids on a bus at one time thus leading to buses having to make multiple runs on the same route, meaning an increased cost in transportation for which the Governor has not offered to fund, leaving it to local districts to find the additional funding, forcing districts to stretch already scarce resources.
I can only hope Governor Cooper considers the long lasting effects his decision will have not only on students across the great state of North Carolina but the effect those decisions will have on parents and guardians, both emotionally and financially, as well.
I end with this “When the lust for power and the desire to control the people becomes paramount to serving country and the electorate, then the very foundation of our freedoms are threatened.”