(AP Photo/Gary Robertson) North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest
(AP Photo/Gary Robertson)

Editorial says GOP positions, particularly those of Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, have contributed to state’s struggle to contain the virus.

This week’s call from top North Carolina Republicans to give parents the option to send their children back for in-person schooling is “irresponsible politics,” a new editorial from The News & Observer says. 

The paper’s editorial board on Thursday blasted Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, Senate President Phil Berger and Catherine Truitt, a GOP candidate for state superintendent, for their demands. The Republicans spoke a day before Gov. Roy Cooper told reporters that districts will have the option next month to reopen K-5 schools with some social distancing measures in place. 

RELATED: Back in Session: Gov. Cooper Gives Elementary Schools Option to Reopen

Many NC districts have chosen to reopen for virtual education only, and are likely to continue to do so after Cooper’s move. But K-5 schools that chose to return for in-person classrooms were required to reduce capacity, which Cooper’s new order will do away with as soon as Oct. 5.

The decision is sure to anger some. Indeed, the N&O reported Friday on an “emergency” virtual meet of the NC Association of Educators, the state’s largest educator advocacy group, in which some attendees expressed dismay at the possibility of a full return to K-5 schooling in some districts.

But this week’s editorial says this week’s news conference by Forest and company is designed to get attention for the candidates. Forest is running against Cooper for governor this November. Polling in the race has shown Cooper a sizable lead on Forest for most of the year. 

In a race in which you’re struggling to get traction, what’s left is to try to distinguish yourself from the leader, and the editorial says Republicans like Forest and Truitt must see “political currency” in attempting to appear sympathetic to frustrated parents.

“Politicizing COVID is not new to Forest, who sued Cooper earlier this year over the governor’s virus restrictions and said closing restaurants and dining rooms was a bad idea,” the editorial continued. “He’s consistently delivered the wrong message to North Carolinians on the virus, and that signal, delivered for too long by too many Republicans, is part of why so many of our children are looking at their teachers on screen instead of in-person.”

As Cardinal & Pine reported Thursday, Cooper explained this week’s move by noting some emerging evidence that elementary-age children are less likely to spread the virus, although the science is not conclusive yet.

The state’s coronavirus numbers have stabilized in recent weeks. And, after the percentage of total tests coming back positive exceeded 10% this summer, that percentage was 5.1% Friday. As of Friday, more than 191,000 North Carolina cases have been confirmed. The dangerous virus has killed 3,207 in the state. 

What happens next? Educators, particularly those staunchly opposed to full reopening, are likely to begin lobbying their local school board members. 

For more information on the governor’s announcement, go here