‘I Don’t Want to Expose Us’: Why This NC Mom Is Terrified to Send Her Kids Back to School

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By Max Millington

July 15, 2020

How parents are weighing what to do with their kids this fall given the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yesterday, Gov. Roy Cooper announced a flexible plan for school reopening. 

North Carolina K-12 public schools will operate under “Plan B”: a mix of in-person and remote instruction. Increased social distancing will also be required. Each individual school district can opt for remote-only learning and masks will be required for all teachers, staff, and students. Additionally, schools will be required to limit the amount of people in the building and conduct daily temperature checks. 

Some North Carolina parents like Sarah Thompson, have experienced the tug-of-war of wanting their kids to experience the social benefits of school while also fearing that conditions will not be safe enough. “I want him to go back to school, I want him to be in a classroom with friends, I want him to have classroom instruction, but I just don’t know if it’s safe. I don’t want to expose us,” said the 29-year-old mom. 

The governor said his choice was based, partly, on scientific research that concluded children were less likely to be infected with COVID-19 than adults. Children infected with COVID-19 also appear to be less likely to spread it to others, even in school or group settings. At the governor’s press conference, NC Department of Health and Human Services Sec. Mandy Cohen, who is also a medical doctor, explained: “We looked at data around the world that indicated that schools are a lower transmission setting and do not seem to play a major role in the spread of COVID-19.” 

President Donald Trump and many Republican allies, including his education secretary Betsy DeVos, are aggressively pushing to fully reopen schools. Teachers and health officials have lamented the lack of federal guidance needed to send children back to school safely—and more importantly, the tens of billions of dollars such efforts would cost to do so safely. Cooper himself said the state’s plan would cost more and he wants to see increased salaries for teachers. 

In the meantime, it will be up to North Carolina’s 115 school districts to determine if they will opt to give parents the flexibility of “Plan B” or stick to remote-only learning as medical professionals work on flattening the curve.


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