Up & Coming Weekly

July 14, 2020

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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8 UCW JULY 15-21, 2020 WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM 208 Rowan St. | Corporate Offices of A FREE public event Refreshments & door prizes! For more information: 910.484.6200 Gallery 208 This show is up for viewing during regular office hours Monday - Thursday • 9AM - 5PM Shane Booth: Where the Winds Never Stop: the Hildreth Project and Two Brothers Catering presents Choice should guide school reopening by JOHN HOOD If you are among the mi- nority of North Carolinians who haven't supported the expansion of parental choice in education over the past two decades — in the form of charter schools, open enroll- ment among district schools and aid to private-school students who have special needs or modest household incomes — the challenge of COVID-19 presents you with an excellent opportunity to reconsider your position. School choice isn't some scary conspiracy or ideological scheme. It is a basic tool for addressing a practical reality: people are different. One size does not fit all. Gov. Roy Cooper and his aides are grappling with this reality right now. Faced with the critically important question of how to reopen North Caro- lina schools for the fall semester, the administration initially sketched out three options. Plan A would have all students return to school with "minimal social distanc- ing," which, in reality, would involve ex- tensive daily precautions that will con- sume lots of time and resources. Plan B would limit schools to 50% capacity, in effect requiring students to stay at home for at least half the semester through some kind of alternating-day or alternat- ing-week schedule. Plan C would keep schools closed for the semester. Originally, Cooper set July 1 as the date he would announce which option would be the statewide default. School districts were to be allowed to adopt a more-restrictive plan but not a less- restrictive one. When July 1 arrived, however, the governor flinched. No an- nouncement came. For many students, parents, educa- tors and employers trying to make plans for August and beyond, Cooper's delay was infuriating. But it was also unsurprising. North Carolinians have varying needs, perspectives and toler- ance for risk. We simply don't agree on school reopening. According to a re- cent Elon University poll, about a third of North Carolinians agree with Plan A, just over a third with Plan B, and just under a third with Plan C. e views of parents are distributed similarly. Whatever the statewide policy may be, a significant share of the population will disagree with it — passionately in many cases. at is precisely why there should be no statewide policy, at least not in the way state politicians have been thinking about it up to now. Based on their comments, it is clear that Cooper and his aides have read the American Academy of Pediatrics guid- ance on school reopening. ey know that, according to the best-available evidence, children face an extremely low risk of suffering serious symptoms from a COVID-19 infection and are very unlikely to transmit the virus to teach- ers, parents or other adults. They also know that if schools do not reopen on a normal schedule, hundreds of thousands of North Carolina children will suffer. Many will fall further behind academically. Some will suffer harm to their physical and mental health. More- over, many of their parents will be unable to care for them at home without losing income or even their jobs. e state's economic recovery will stall. And the costs will be disproportionately borne by disadvantaged North Carolinians. As you can tell, I remain firmly con- vinced that the state's schools would be reopened under a light version of Plan A. But I also know, as do Cooper and his team, that many North Carolinians will disagree. Some parents will refuse to send their children back. ey will insist on some other solution. And they have every right to do so. Many districts are already planning to offer virtual academies with more- robust offerings than the meager fare the schools came up with during the spring shutdown. Private associations and vendors are doing the same, in response to record interest in home- schooling. Some private schools have long offered hybrid schedules and would welcome new enrollees. e state should expand opportunity schol- arships, at least temporarily, to ensure greater access to that option. I may not agree with the preferences of the more risk-averse parents, but I support their right to choose the pub- licly funded option they think best for their children. I always have. OPINION JOHN HOOD, Chairman of the John Locke Foundation. Contributing Writer. COMMENTS? Editor@upand- comingweekly.com. 910-484-6200 What will the 2020/2021 school year look like?

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