Roughly one million of the state’s K-12 students will attend school remotely to start the new school year, State Superintendent Mark Johnson said Tuesday.
Johnson made the comment during a remote Council of State Meeting.
“Right now, we’re on track for two out of every three students in our public schools to start learning remotely,” Johnson said.
Two-thirds of the state’s 1.5 million students is about one million students.
Gov. Roy Cooper directed the state’s 116 school districts to reopen, as soon as Aug. 17, using a mix of remote learning and in-person instruction. Cooper also gave districts the option to reopen using remote learning only if coronavirus metrics indicate that’s best for students.
Raleigh’s News & Observer has reported that at least a million (66%) of the state’s 1.5 million K-12 students will begin the school year this month receiving remote instruction.
Dane West, a Wake County social studies teacher, posted a map on social media showing at least 54 school districts reopening using remote-only instruction, also known as Plan C. Another nine will reopen under plans close to the state’s remote-only option, he said.
“I think for some districts it shows how they are worried about the health of their students and staff,” West said. “For others, it shows how necessary it is for the federal government to provide the funding for districts to be able to open schools with social distancing and other preventative measures.”
Johnson said no one will be happy when schools reopen.
“We get it,” Johnson said. “Distance learning does not replace being in a classroom and it’s a struggle for parents, students and teachers.”
But the remote instruction provided in the fall will be better than that received in mid-March when schools closed for in-person instruction, Johnson said.
“It still will not be perfect, but it will be better,” Johnson said, noting that remote learning will include more live interaction with teachers.
Johnson, a Republican, has been at odds with Democratic colleagues on the State Board of Education over how federal coronavirus relief aid is spent.
He struck a conciliatory tone Tuesday while sharing news about a N.C. Department of Public Instruction “resource page” coming soon to help families and educators better navigate remote learning.
“We ask that everyone join us and work to help to encourage one another and our students,” Johnson said. “We don’t have to agree on everything, but we can all agree that no one is happy with what COVID-19 has done to our state, our nation and that we must work together with a level of grace and understanding to overcome these challenges ahead.”
Lt. Gov. Dan Forest urged the Council of State to push for as many remote learning options as possible, including virtual charter schools.
“There are going to be many families, especially those working-class families, that are going to be left without options unless we provide those for them, so we need to make sure we do that,” Forest said.
School districts were asked to provide remote options for families uncomfortable with sending their children to school for in-person instruction before the coronavirus is under control.
Forest also said families are concerned that children with special needs won’t receive the services they need because school districts are not reopening for in-person instruction.
“Our special needs parents are just kind of beside themselves,” Forest said. “They can’t get their kids special needs classes. We need to open up our schools for these special-needs students in particular to make sure they and their families are being provided the services they and their families need during this time.”
Many districts will provide some in-person instruction for students with special needs.
Previously, Forest, who is running for governor as the Republican nominee, has criticized Gov. Cooper for not reopening schools more completely and falsely questioned the usefulness of masks in inhibiting the spread of the virus.