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Planning for School, Step 1: Understand Your Options

Anxiety is running high these days, and one of the big stressors is what the coming school year will look like for our kids. On July 14, Gov. Cooper announced that each of the school districts in North Carolina will operate under their Plan B scenario for reopening under moderate COVID-19 conditions, with the option to choose their Plan C scenario for reopening under more severe COVID-19 conditions. All districts also must offer parents an entirely online or virtual learning option. As of this publication, all school districts should have announced whether they will follow Plan B or C, as they aim for the start date of August 17.


Plan B vs. Plan C

The first step for all parents, whether they have a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder or not, is to know what YOUR school districtā€™s plan is.

  • Plan B: Using a mixed approach, students attend school in-person some of the time and learn remotely the rest of the time.
  • Plan C: Full remote-learning for all students until it is determined that it is safe to move to Plan B.

Most school districts in NC have opted to follow their Plan B scenarios. School districts across our state have interpreted this in various ways. Some districts will have students attend school one or two assigned days each week. In other districts, students might attend school for an entire week and then learn remotely for a few weeks while other students rotate into the school. It is confusing, but you only need to learn the system that YOUR district is using for Plan B. Some school districts in NC have opted to follow their Plan C. All districts should have information about their specific plan for reopening on their website and in information they are sending out to families.


Remote Learning vs. Virtual/Online Learning

  • Remote learning: When students are assigned to a class in their local school, with a school-based teacher, but instruction happens online, either part of the time under Plan B, or entirely under Plan C. Remote learning may also involve independent work done at home.
  • Virtual academy or online learning: This is typically a full-year school commitment that is not associated with your neighborhood school, and classes are conducted entirely online. Most districts have an application that must be completed by a specific date.

Even if your school district is following Plan B for reopening school, there should also be an option for your child to receive all of their instruction virtually through an online or virtual learning option. This might be a consideration if you donā€™t feel that your child will learn best with a mixed approach or you are not comfortable sending your child to the school building at all. This is meant to be an entirely online school with its own teachers. It is different and separate from your child being part of a classroom and doing some of the instruction remotely. The window for enrolling in the online/virtual learning option for each district will vary. Check your district website to learn more.


If You Choose to Home School

If you choose to keep your child home from school entirely, you MUST either enroll them in your school districtā€™s Online/Virtual School or enroll them in a private, charter, or home school. If you decide to teach your child yourself, make sure you create an official Home School by registering with the NC Division of Non-Public Schools.


We are Here for You

Given the reality of COVID-19, all students will be facing a new educational experience this coming school year. Whatever options are chosen and implemented, this will be new for everyone, students and teachers alike. This will undoubtedly be challenging for everyone, and even more so for kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families who already struggle with adjusting to new experiences and transitions. Please reach out to your local Autism Resource Specialist for guidance in understanding your options.

To support you in addressing the unique learning needs of your child with autism when they are learning remotely, ASNC has many resources already available on our website.

Free Online Webinars


Social Narratives


Also consider registering for our upcoming live webinar on July 28, The IEP Process in Changing Times.


Additional Resources

Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit: Guidelines released June 8 to help North Carolina K-12 public schools begin to find a safe way to open to in-person instruction for the 2020-21 academic year

Lighting Our Way Forward: Guidance developed by the NC Department of Public Instruction for reopening public schools for the 2020-21 school year


Nancy Popkin can be reached at npopkin@autismsociety-nc.org or 704-894-9678.




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