CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – On Tuesday, Gov. Roy Cooper and state education leaders strongly urged that all schools provide in-person learning for K-12 students.

“It’s important schools follow the safety protocols laid out by the North Carolina Dept. of Health and Human Services. That guidance reinforces in-person learning while maintaining strong public health measures,” Gov. Cooper said.

At least 90 of North Carolina’s 115 school districts are providing in-person instruction for some or all of their students.

“What’s new is that research done right here in NC tells us in-person learning is working and that students can be in classrooms safely with the right safety protocols,” Gov. Cooper said. “School is important for reasons beyond academic instruction. School is where students learn social skills, get reliable meals, and find their voices. Teachers play an important role in keeping students safe by identifying cases of abuse, hunger, homelessness, and other challenges.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, state leaders have emphasized the importance of returning students to in-person learning as quickly and safely as possible.

“Since we went to all remote instruction at the beginning of the pandemic, our #1 opening priority has been getting our children safely back into the classroom,” Gov. Cooper said.

Children who rely solely on remote instruction are feeling the negative effects of isolation, including learning loss, mental health challenges, and food insecurity.

The state’s public health toolkit details specific health and safety protocols K-12 schools must implement to keep students and teachers safe during in-person instruction. 

Cooper’s team and health officials have worked closely with the Department of Public Instruction and Superintendent Catherine Truitt, and the State Board of Education, and its Chairman Eric Davis.

According to NCDHHS, increasing evidence suggests that, with prevention measures in place, there are low rates of COVID-19 transmission in primary and secondary school settings even with high rates of community transmission. In addition, ongoing medical studies and peer-reviewed data affirm that children infected with COVID-19 generally have mild or no symptoms, and are less likely to spread the disease. Read more at What are We Learning.

“We are committed to working together on this,” Gov. Cooper said.

On Tuesday, Gov. Cooper, Superintendent Truitt, Chair Davis and Secretary Cohen sent a letter to local school board members and superintendents encouraging in-person instruction across the state.

Read the letter state leaders sent to school board members and superintendents.

North Carolina’s call center has expanded its operations and will be open seven days a week to help answer questions about vaccine eligibility, how the vaccines work and more. The number for the call center is: 888-675-4567.

Statement released Tuesday from NCAE:

“We, as NCAE, have said since the start of this pandemic that educators are eager to return to in-person instruction when it can be done safely. However, without the widespread vaccination of educators and strictly enforced social distancing, it is impossible for many schools to open safely, and for the schools that have been open, need help.

If Governor Cooper feels so strongly about resuming in-person instruction quickly, then he should support educators and immediately bring the full weight of his office to bear to get all educators vaccinated by the end of this month, just as 25 other states have been able to do. In the meantime, we encourage local school boards to continue to make decisions that protect students and educators based on local conditions.

Particularly in light of the emerging and increasingly virulent strains of COVID, it is more critical than ever to have a flexible approach that can be adapted to whatever situation next emerges.”