Everything you need to know: NC’s 3 back to school scenarios

CHARLOTTE — Parents and guardians across North Carolina were anxious as they waited on word Monday from Gov. Roy Cooper about the state’s plan to reopen schools during the coronavirus pandemic. North Carolina will allow K-12 public schools to reopen in the fall with limited in-person capacity.

The plan announced by Cooper allows school districts to decide whether they want to offer online-only instruction.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools had been preparing several reopening plans for when fall instruction starts while waiting for Cooper’s decision on a statewide approach, while state education and health officials mapped out three options earlier in June for what class will be like for the upcoming school year.

The StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit (K-12) lays out a comprehensive set of baseline health practices that public schools should follow to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for students, staff, and families.

Schools have been required to create the following three plans which spell out what’s mandated and what’s recommended regarding social distancing and minimizing exposure; face coverings; protecting vulnerable populations; cleaning and hygiene; monitoring for symptoms; handling suspected, presumptive, and confirmed COVID-19 cases; communication and combating misinformation; water and ventilation systems; transportation; and coping and resilience.

  • Plan A: All students in school at the same time, minimal social distancing. Minimal Social Distancing Will be implemented assuming state COVID-19 metrics continue to stabilize and/or move in a positive direction.
  • Plan B: Limit density in facilities and vehicles to no greater than 50% maximum capacity. Moderate Social Distancing Will be required if state COVID-19 metrics worsen and it is determined additional restrictions are necessary.
  • Plan C: No students in school facilities. Remote Learning Only will be implemented only if state COVID-19 metrics worsen significantly enough to require suspension of in-person instruction and the implementation of remote learning for all students, based on the remote learning planes required by Session Law 2020-3.

School districts may choose to implement a more restrictive plan but may not choose to implement a less restrictive plan than established by NCDHHS, NCSBE and NCDPI.

Cooper said the goal was to give districts flexibility because they are all different.

Plans consider the following multiple learning modalities:

In-person Learning: Student learning that takes place “in person” and in real time between teacher and student.

Remote Learning: Student learning that is facilitated by a teacher even though the teacher is not physically present with the student.

  • Synchronous Instruction: Instruction takes place live/in real-time with students accessing the instruction at a predetermined time
  • Asynchronous Instruction: Instruction is recorded and students may access instruction at a time which best fits personal schedules

Blended Learning: Student learning that is a combination of in-person learning with the remainder taking place remotely via an online platform

Here’s a more detailed break down from CMS for each of those plans (plans may vary from district to district):


This plan is as close to “business as usual” as is possible under the current pandemic conditions.

Schools would be allowed to reopen close to normal, with all students receiving in-person instruction every day. This plan includes continuing enhanced safety, sanitation, and hygiene practices put in place in many aspects of our lives during the past several months -- and practicing safe social distancing when possible.

This plan will be selected only if COVID-19 conditions in North Carolina improve dramatically and the pandemic is under control.


This is a hybrid of plans A and C. It will be enacted if state leaders determine that in-classroom learning is safe only if social distancing can be maintained.

School districts must plan for no more than 50% capacity of classrooms, transportation vehicles, and all facilities. Social distancing of at least six feet between individuals must be enforced.

This plan means that not all students will attend in-school learning every day. On days when students do not attend in-classroom instruction, they will participate in remote learning.

Transportation, nutrition services, and many other aspects of traditional in-classroom learning will be impacted.

Plan B is the most challenging of the plans to develop, with the most moving parts.

CMS’ Plan B model meets student experience priorities and operational considerations

  • Student Experience - allows all students to experience in-person learning, enhancing the remote learning experience with teacher and peer interactions at school
  • Staffing - at ⅓ students in school and ⅔ on remote learning, each school should have sufficient staff to accommodate both learning modalities simultaneously
  • Facilities - each school facility can accommodate ⅓ of its student population and accommodate required social distancing
  • Transportation - at 24 students per bus, transportation can transport ⅓ of its typical ridership daily with the current number of buses; routes must be set by July 6 to be prepared for an August 17 opening


This plan is similar to how CMS operated from March 13 through the close of school, with students in a remote learning-only environment.

CMS leaders have collaborated the past several months with experts around the state and country to gain access to the best online learning tools and best practices for implementing remote learning. The district’s goal, if required to enact this plan, is to make remote learning more robust and improve educational opportunities for all students.

Plan C will be required if cases spike and pandemic conditions worsen to the point that student and staff safety is jeopardized by in-classroom attendance.