By state law the first day of classroom instruction in public schools in North Carolina is August 17. It appears to be one of the few certainties about the upcoming school year. But even that is confusing if you depend on the Guilford County Schools (GCS) webpage for information.

The GCS webpage lists August 24 as the first day of classes, even though a state Senate bill signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper sets the date as August 17. If people are confused about the upcoming school year, they have a right to be.

Next Tuesday, July 14, the Guilford County Board of Education is supposed to receive the recommendation from Guilford County School Superintendent Sharon Contreras on how Guilford County Schools will operate when classes begin on August 17.

Also, next week Gov. Roy Cooper is supposed to issue his directive on how schools in the state will operate in the 2020-2021 school year.

Cooper so far hasn’t said exactly when next week he will reveal his plans for public education in the state for the upcoming year. He was scheduled to make the announcement last week.

But so far Cooper’s executive orders to handle the emergency created by COVID-19 have been one size fits all. Back when some counties had not had a single positive case of COVID-19 reported, they were under the same restrictions as counties that had hundreds.

If Cooper decides to give school systems across the state a number of options, that would be a deviation from how he has so far handled the COVID-19 crisis in the state.

Then there is President Donald Trump, who has said he is considering withholding federal funding from school systems that don’t return to the classrooms in the fall semester. Although this is being reported as an overreach, President Barack Obama took a similar course of action when he wanted schools systems across the country to adopt the Common Core curriculum. The way the Obama administration did it was awarding points on a grant application for adopting Common Core, but schools systems got the message and adopted Common Core to compete for the funding.

So Trump is saying put students back in classrooms. No one knows what Cooper will say, nor is it known what Contreras will recommend to the school board, which is not expected to vote on the plan at the Tuesday, July 14 meeting.

Whatever decisions are finally made, it looks like teachers, students and parents will have about a month to figure out the logistics of handling the upcoming school year.