Elementary schools in North Carolina are now able to reopen at full capacity, Gov. Roy Cooper announced at a Thursday briefing.
Face coverings, social distancing and symptom screening will be required. Schools for grades 6-12 are still required to be partially or fully remote.
Cooper said school districts will have the ability to choose whether to reopen at full capacity or continue with hybrid and remote options.
"Plan A may not be right at this time for many school districts and for every family," he said. "Opportunities for remote learning need to be available for families who choose it. And districts will have the flexibility to select a plan based on their unique situation."
He said he made this decision because North Carolina COVID-19 numbers are stabilizing and there is lower viral spread among younger children.
As of Thursday, North Carolina has had 189,576 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to data from the state health department.
Cooper said he recognizes remote education has taken a toll on students and parents.
"Of all the disruptions COVID-19 has created, education is the most challenging to address," he said. "As the school year has started, many parents are facing difficult choices and nearly impossible balancing acts between work, other obligations and dealing with their children being home."
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools has already decided it will remain fully remote until at least Jan. 15. Orange County Schools is remote, and is expected to vote on whether to continue with remote education Sept. 28.
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