Opening Public Schools in North Carolina

North Carolina public schools are open for both in-person and remote learning with key safety precautions to protect the health of students, teachers, staff and families.

Effective Oct. 5, 2020, North Carolina public school districts and charter schools can choose to implement Plan A for elementary schools (grades K-5), which includes important safety measures, such as face coverings, social distancing, symptom screening and cleaning but does not require schools to reduce the number of children in the classroom. 

Other schools are operating on a modified Plan B, which allows children to attend school in person but requires fewer children in the classroom.

Under both plans, local school districts can provide a remote-learning option for any child who chooses it. In addition, school districts have the option of Plan C – all remote learning – if that’s best for them.

Requirements for Opening N.C. Public Schools

The Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit outlines requirements for opening schools. Some of the requirements include:

  • Face coverings are required for every teacher, staff member and student from kindergarten through high school. The state will provide at least five reusable face coverings for every student, teacher and staff member.
  • Symptom screenings, including temperature checks, take place daily before children enter school buildings.
  • Schools must create a way to isolate students who have symptoms and ensure that they can get home safely.
  • Schedules must allow time for frequent hand washing and schools will regularly clean classrooms, bathrooms, buses and equipment.
  • Teachers work to limit sharing of personal items and classroom materials.
  • Non-essential visitors and activities involving outside organizations is limited.
  • Schools discontinue the use of self-service food or beverage distribution.

In addition to these and other requirements, schools are strongly recommended to implement other safety precautions such as:

  • One-way hallways and entrances
  • Keeping students in small groups that stay together as much as possible
  • Eating lunch in the classroom if the cafeteria doesn’t allow for social distancing
  • Suspending activities that bring together large groups such as assemblies
  • Installing physical barriers, such as plexiglass at reception desks and similar areas

Public health experts and school leaders developed these safety rules to protect our students and teachers and their families. They have also created detailed procedures for what will happen if a student or teacher tests positive.

If trends spike, and in-person school cannot be done safely even with these safety protocols, then North Carolina will need to move to all remote learning.

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