Starting Monday, public school districts and charter schools can begin moving to Plan A in the governor's phased approach to reopen schools.
School boards for at least 18 of the state's 116 public school districts have voted to move to some sort of in-person instruction under the plan, according to data from the North Carolina School Boards Association. Two districts, Avery County and Mount Airy City Schools, already had limited in-person instruction for students from kindergarten to 5th grade.
This includes big urban districts like Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and rural districts like Camden County in the northeast corner of the state. Wake County voted Tuesday to begin bringing its youngest students back in phases starting in late October.
Other districts are still working out the best way to bring the youngest students back into the classroom.
Under the new rules from Gov. Roy Cooper, districts can only reopen elementary schools. Districts have to put coronavirus safety measures in place, including masks for students, teachers and staff, screening for symptoms and social distancing. The plan does not force districts to cut the number of students in each classroom.
North Carolina public schools have been shut since the spring because of the coronavirus.
The death toll in North Carolina passed 200,000 last week, according to state public health officials. But the virus trends have been leveling out and, in some areas, decreasing, according to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen.
"Our trends show that we are on the right track. It’s up to all of us to protect our progress," she said last week as the governor announced the changes.
“We are able to open this option because most North Carolinians have doubled-down on our safety and prevention measures and stabilized our numbers,” Gov. Cooper said.
“North Carolinians are doing the hard work to improve our numbers and trends. Many people are wearing masks, keeping social distance and being careful to protect others as well as themselves. We have shown that listening to the science works. And I’m proud of our resolve,” he said, according to a news release.
“For the past 6 months, superintendents, principals, teachers and local BOE have worked diligently to care for the safety of our students and staff while educating our children," state Board of Education Chair Eric Davis said in a statement.
"While we are anxious to return all students, we know that teachers, principals, and students need a gradual transition over the next 3 months. I ask our parents to remain patient, knowing that we are moving as quickly as is safely possible. And I ask our teachers to continue to assist our students by supporting this deliberate, thoughtful transition," he said.
See the full data on that status of school districts reopening from the North Carolina School Boards Association here.