State Superintendent Mark Johnson on Thursday announced the creation of a new bipartisan task force to plan for the reopening of public schools. They have been closed since mid-March due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Johnson made the announcement about the new Schools Reopening Task Force during a State Board of Education meeting Thursday.
He said it’s important to get the message to educators, parents and students that the current school closure and remote learning taking place is not the “new normal” in North Carolina.
“We recognize that this situation is not sustainable,” Johnson said. “We, today, are launching the task force on how we will reopen schools in the fall.”
Gov. Roy Cooper said last week that he’s confident students will return to school buildings in the fall.
The task force will include a mixture of Democratic and Republican lawmakers, including Lt. Gov. Dan Forest who chairs the SBE’s Digital Learning Committee, superintendents from across the state and staff from Cooper’s office.
Education-focused organizations, teachers, principals, parents and students will advise the panel.
Johnson said the task force will focus on:
- Improving remote learning options by making them more user-friendly and practical, including broadband internet;
- Monitoring and closing the achievement gap between economically disadvantaged students and students of color and their white counterparts; that gap might have grown larger because some students need more individualized instruction than online learning allows.
- Social distancing when students return to school. The need for greater social distancing is likely unavoidable until there is a vaccine. The taks force will help develop guidelines in partnership with N.C. Department of Health and Human Services with the goals of getting as many teachers and students back in schools as safely as possible and determining how to manage extracurricular activities.
“Everyone can understand how difficult it will be to social distance on a school bus or in a classroom or in a hallway or cafeteria,” Johnson said.