Hoke County Schools closed for rest of school year, could reopen in fall

By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • North Carolina public schools, including Hoke County Schools, will stay closed through the end of the school year.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, N.C. Schools Superintendent Mark Johnson and State Board of Education Chair Eric Davis made the announcement Thursday.

“We don’t make this decision lightly, but it’s important to protect the health and safety of students and school staff,” Cooper said in the live-streamed press conference.

Summer school and school-based summer camps might not happen this year. It depends on people following the guidelines meant to stop the spread of COVID-19, the governor said.

Changes for the fall

Cooper said he believes that schools will reopen in the fall. However, when they do, things won’t be exactly the same as before the pandemic.

“There will be new measures in place to protect health when school buildings open again,” he said.

Schools will soon get more information from the state on grading and other end-of-year matters. The News-Journal has reached out to local education officials about how they plan to address high school graduation.

State education leaders will be proactive to get students back to school this fall, Johnson said.

“We will finish this year as strong as we can. Plans for next year are already underway, and will be proactive in the face of this crisis,” he said.

Appreciating educators

Johnson also encouraged the public to find creative ways to celebrate educators on Teacher Appreciation Day this May 5.

“Please take advantage of that time to appreciate our educators and the amazing work they have done during this crisis,” he said.

Cooper said he is “deeply grateful” to everyone in the education system.

“Teachers have always gone the extra mile for their students, and now they’re running a marathon,” the governor said.

Davis thanked legislators who are providing support for schools, and teachers who are striving to find creative ways to educate children through distance learning.

“Now more than ever we will guard and maintain the right of a sound, basic education for every child in our North Carolina public schools,” he said.

Plans underway

The state is partnering with AT&T and Duke Energy Foundation to secure about 180 internet hot spots for school buses. That way, more students across the state will have internet access.

“School classrooms may be closed but the learning is not over,” Cooper said.

Education leaders are also working to create an “intensive learning program” for students who need help getting caught up, once schools are back in session.

Additionally, Cooper said he has put together a budget proposal to direct $1.4 billion in federal funding from the CARES Act to pay for ongoing education efforts. The funding would also go to public health and safety needs, and provide help for small businesses and local governments.