by Donna Martinez
Former Senior Writer and Editor, John Locke Foundation
After months of being forced into total or partial online learning, could the school shutdown be coming to an end in North Carolina? Here’s what the Republicans in the North Carolina Senate have to say about it in a news release posted to online. Their message is good since the latest Civitas Poll shows voters are unhappy with Gov. Cooper’s handling of reopening schools during COVID-19.
North Carolina lawmakers are drafting legislation to reopen schools. Conversations have been underway for several weeks, and a formal proposal is expected in the coming days.
The legislation is expected to require all school districts to operate in-person in some capacity while still providing parents with the option of all-virtual learning if they so choose. Health recommendations from the ABC Science Collaborative and the CDC will likely be included in the legislation.
Sen. Deanna Ballard (R-Watauga), who co-chairs the Senate Education Committee, said, “Among all the COVID tragedies, the most preventable is the lost learning potential that, for some kids, will last a lifetime. After hearing from so many parents and teachers, we have to act immediately to return children to the classroom to stop further damage.”
Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said, “Gov. Cooper has not acted decisively and the public education bureaucracy has rejected its most fundamental task: educating our children. It’s time for this travesty to end.”
The evidence that school closures harm children is overwhelming. As far back as last summer, public health experts at Harvard University warnedthat school closures are “a disaster that some students may never recover from.”
Last week, the News & Observer published a deeply reported piece about child abuse going unreported because teachers cannot identify signs of abuse if a child is not in a classroom.
This week, the CDC concluded there is “little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission.”
This month, UNC and Duke researchers with the ABC Science Collaborative reported “no instances of child-to-adult transmission of SARS-CoV-2 were reported within schools” during their examination of 11 open school districts serving 90,000 students. The researchers concluded, “Our data support the concept that schools can stay open safely in communities with widespread community transmission.”