NCDHHS shares health guidance to reopen public schools

Published 7:37 am Sunday, June 14, 2020

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New health guidelines released June 8 represent a first step to help North Carolina K-12 public schools find a safe way to open to in-person instruction for the 2020-21 academic year.

The Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit (K-12) lays out a comprehensive set of baseline health practices that public schools should follow to minimize risk of exposure to COVID-19 for students, staff and families. In addition to specific requirements, the toolkit recommends practices that schools should implement to minimize spread of COVID-19 while allowing in-person teaching to resume.

The guidance can be found at

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Governor Roy Cooper, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson, State Board of Education Chair Eric Davis and NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Secretary Mandy Cohen shared the guidance in a media conference June 8.

Schools are asked to plan for reopening under three scenarios:

– Plan A: Minimal Social Distancing

– Plan B: Moderate Social Distancing

– Plan C: Remote Learning Only

NC DHHS, in consultation with the State Board of Education and Department of Public Instruction, will announce by July 1 which of the three plans should be implemented for schools to most safely reopen. The remaining plans may be needed if the state’s COVID-19 metrics change over time.

“We are pushing forward to get schools open this fall,” said Cooper.

“Opening schools will be possible if we keep working together to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Cohen.

The Public Health Toolkit was developed collaboratively by DHHS and DPI with input from a range of stakeholders across the state, including local superintendents, State Board of Education members, the Governor’s Teacher Advisory Council, and members of the Governor’s COVID-19 Education and Nutrition Working Group.

The Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit (K-12) is a companion to operational guidance under development by DPI that will offer strategies for how to implement the public health guidance, and cover other non-health areas for reopening planning, including scheduling, instructional practice, and staff training.

The Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit (K-12) was developed using the most current CDC guidance for schools and includes requirements and recommendations for eight areas: Social Distancing and Minimizing Exposure; Cloth Face Coverings; Protecting Vulnerable Populations; Cleaning and Hygiene; Monitoring for Symptoms; Handling Suspected, Presumptive or Confirmed Positive Cases of COVID-19; Communication and Combating Misinformation; Water and Ventilation Systems; Transportation; and Coping and Resilience.

For example, it requires students and others to be screened for illness before entering school, and requires floor markings to maintain social distance. It also includes sample screening symptom checklists in English and Spanish, a flow chart protocol for handling suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19, and a checklist of infection control supplies schools may need. The Toolkit will be updated as new health guidance is released by the CDC and additional resources are added.

Questions about the toolkit should be directed to



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