by Brenée Goforth
Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
The beginning of the school year is coming up fast. While many parents are preparing to school their children from home in the fall, parents of preschoolers will likely have the option to send their children back to the classroom. In his research brief this week, JLF’s Dr. terry Stoops writes:
At last count, 64 school districts and 50 charter schools that enroll around two-thirds of North Carolina public school students have selected a full-time remote learning option for the start of the next school year. As a result, tens of thousands of 5-year-old children will begin kindergarten this month in a mandatory full-time remote learning program.
At the same time, 4-year-old children enrolled in North Carolina’s early childhood program for at-risk children, NC Pre-K, will have the benefit of in-person instruction in participating Head Start, public school, and private child care classrooms across North Carolina.
DHHS provided these guidelines in in their Interim COVID-19 Reopening Policies for NC Pre-K Programs:
- 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).
Why the difference from K-12 schools? Dr. Stoops explains:
Governance is one factor. On July 14, Gov. Cooper announced that school districts and charter schools would have the option of offering in-person instruction with strict health and safety protocols (Plan B), full-time remote learning (Plan C), or a hybrid plan that employed both in-person and remote learning approaches…
On the other hand, the supervision of child care facilities is much more centralized. The NC Division of Child Development and Early Education, a division within DHHS, oversees all licensed child care facilities and services provided to over 31,000 children participating in the NC Pre-K program last year.
Stoops shares his thoughts on the guidance:
Unlike public school leaders, however, DHHS officials are not willing to toss our youngest integral tots into the remote learning hopper for processing. After all, they concede, there is “limited evidence on best practices for remote learning for young children.” Instead, they recognize that “children learn best when they have the opportunity to be together with their classmates and teachers.” This is true for all young children in North Carolina, not just those 4-year-olds enrolled in NC Pre-K.