Durham Public Schools will move forward with in-person learning in March

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Pressed by how quickly a bill that requires schools to provide an in-person learning option, the Durham Public School System plans to move forward with some students returning to in-person learning as soon as mid-March.

On Thursday evening, the Board of Education voted 5-2 to resume in-person classes. The criteria for return dates would differ between elementary, middle, high and specialty high classrooms. Elementary students would return March 15, high school students under "Cohort A" would return April 8 and specialty high school students under "Cohort A" would return March 18.

Many board members felt as though their hands were forced because of the immediacy of Senate Bill 37 (SB 7). which is on its way to Gov. Roy Cooper's desk for a signature or a veto.
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Pressed by how quickly a bill that requires schools to provide an in-person learning option, the Durham Public School System plans to move forward with some students returning to in-person learning as soon as mid-March.



Should SB 37 be made law, it would require North Carolina schools to begin with in-person learning 15 days afterward.

"With the passing of Senate Bill 37, we have to be prepared, because my understanding is the bill is going to the Governor and we only have 15 days for us to safely open our schools," said Durham Public School superintendent Pascal Mubenga. "If we are not prepared, it is going to be chaotic."

Throughout the presentation, Mubenga emphasized the time crunch that this puts Durham schools under.


View Durham Public School's proposed timeline of entry in its entirety here:

Durham Public Schools' proposed return plan



"We know it's heading to the governor's desk and there is some unsure about what happens next, but it is our responsibility to plan and prepare for what might come," said chair member Bettina Umstead.
Umstead said the school system has been in close conversation with both Durham's public health system and the city's mayor to prioritize the vaccination of educators.

"The bill, I think is poor, it does not align with what we needed to go, but it is forcing us to move a little quicker," Umstead said.


On Jan. 7, the DPS Board of Education voted unanimously to remain in Plan C -- remote learning -- for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year. However, SB 37, may have thrown a wrench into those plans.

During a Thursday afternoon news conference, Cooper reiterated that the bill does not adhere to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services guidelines safety guidance for schools. He said he will likely speak to lawmakers before taking action on the bill.

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Gov. Roy Cooper and Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry outlined impacts and response to the winter storm, including weather-related delays to vaccine distribution.



The Board of Education will meet again next Thursday for further discussion.
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