CHARLOTTE — From distance learning to sports seasons canceled to disrupted graduations, the coronavirus pandemic has touched our schools at every level.

But the focus is now turning to how students will be able to return to the classroom while staying safe.

>> Have questions about the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the Carolinas? We have an entire section dedicated to coverage of the outbreak — CLICK HERE FOR MORE.

“We want to reopen our schools, we will in some form or fashion reopen our schools,” said Mark Johnson, North Carolina state superintendent of public instruction. “We just need to also know it’s going to look a little different because COVID-19 is still out there.”

Guidance from the CDC gives us a look at just how different it could look for schools across the state this fall.

“We need to have screenings before students go into school in the morning,” Johnson said.

According to the guidance, and Johnson, that means checking for symptoms and a history of exposure to COVID-19 or someone with symptoms each day.

“That’s a huge responsibility on each local school,” Johnson said. “Especially when we’re talking about our larger high schools that have 1,000 or 2,000 students. That is a daunting prospect of how do you screen students every morning before they go to school? That may be something that requires us to rethink how much capacity we can handle in our physical school buildings. So, that might mean that, what we talked about earlier, alternate days for students, some students come in the physical building, some students remote learn.”

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The CDC guidance also lays out the need to protect students and employees who are at a higher risk of illness. Johnson said that’s another reason remote learning and teaching has to be an option and has to be improved upon over the summer.

“Remote learning, right now in May of 2020, is not what remote learning is going to look like in the fall of 2020. It’s not sustainable, and I’m speaking not just as the superintendent but as a parent,” Johnson said.

He also acknowledged the difficulty of continued remote learning for parents who need to be at work.

“We’re fortunate that we have time, but these are very daunting challenges that we’re going to have to overcome together.”

Johnson said the task force examining reopening schools is still waiting on guidance from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. That, along with the CDC guidance, will inform decisions and plans for the fall.

Local superintendent becomes member of task force

Union County Public Schools Superintendent Andrew Houlihan is a member of the team and shared some their challenges they are addressing.

Houlihan invited anyone who wants to provide feedback to email him their thoughts and ideas.

Watch the video below for an interview with Houlihan.

Interview: NC schools task force member Supt. Hoolihan

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