Students can 'effectively' return to school with precautions in place, Duke, CDC studies say

On March 14, it will officially be a year since most North Carolina students learned full-time inside classrooms.

A series of recent studies by the CDC and Duke Health say students have the ability to return again with minimal COVID-19 spread, despite the level of positive community cases, as long as students and staff are strictly adhering to the three Ws.

Published in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Duke University School of Medicine has been studying the possibility of bringing students back to North Carolina schools, which are empty for the most part.

The university examined nearly a dozen districts in the state -- none of which were in central North Carolina -- but Duke, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, came to the same conclusion.

"We understand that it's a complicated decision and has to be a local decision, and decisions are made based on multiple different things, hopefully not just fear. That's what I want to make sure that people know that success is possible. We don't have to be afraid of this," Duke Health Dr. Kanecia Zimmerman.

RELATED: Some students struggle with remote learning as COVID-19 metrics worsen statewide
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School districts are taking a cautious approach over a return to in-person instruction, as COVID-19 metrics worsen statewide.

Zimmerman, who contributed to the study, feels comfortable sending her own two kids back after doing the analysis.

"As a mom, I think my kids would benefit from being back in the school building. I see them every day and I see how this has affected them," said Zimmerman.

The CDC study also suggests there is "little evidence" of COVID-19 transmissions in schools with strict precautionary measures. However, the federal agency warns that high contact activities mask-wearing and physical distancing -- like wrestling -- aren't possible should be avoided.

Some parents questioning the findings.

"Who knows if it's going to be enforced here? Do we know that everyone is going to have access to having high-quality masks? Not every mask is created equal," said Wake County parent Karissa Binkley.

Brinkley is considered someone who would be at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and wants the option of keeping her 4th grader and kindergartener home. She would rest a bit easier if more people in the community are vaccinated, though Binkley appreciates that other parents' perspective.

"I'm in a privileged position to be able to make the choice to stay home, but I do recognize with food insecurities and with people working full-time and not being able to take time off, that not everyone has that luxury," said Binkley.

Some parents are pushing state leaders to reopen schools by rallying outside the Governor's Mansion on Saturday, Jan. 30 at 3 p.m.
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