Top NC education leader addresses coronavirus plans at schools

NORTH CAROLINA — As concerns about the coronavirus grow, school districts across the country are getting prepared.

"We do know it has reached the East Coast and there is, rightfully so, a lot of concerns among parents and teachers," said North Carolina State Superintendent Mark Johnson.

So, what is the state's top education official and the Department of Public Instruction doing as the fear of coronavirus looms?

First, Johnson is calling on families to do their part, reminding all to wash their hands frequently and disinfect commonly-used surfaces, including cellphones.

But what's going on in the schools?

"The big message that is new for school districts is to up the use of hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes on surfaces touched frequently by students,” Johnson said.

He said they are in touch with all districts, the Department of Health and Human Services and other state officials in case of the worst.

"We are working right now in a bipartisan way with state and local leaders on plans that will be in place if, heaven forbid, that happens," Johnson said. "And yes, following the lead of other school districts, if heaven forbid that does happen, we will look at closing a school to be able to disinfect that school.”

And if a school closes down, he said they would look at alternate learning options like teaching students over the internet and creating pop-up classrooms, if that were an appropriate and healthy option.

While the hope is it doesn't come to that, he wants parents to know they're preparing.

"We’ll bring the full weight and support of the state government and the North Carolina DHHS. We will be there at that school to make sure we’re addressing that properly,” Johnson said.

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