All NC elementary schools must reopen, districts have choice for middle, high schools in new bill with bipartisan support

Coronavirus

RALEIGH, N.C. — Gov. Roy Cooper and leaders from the General Assembly have come to an agreement to reopen many North Carolina schools.

NC Sen. Phil Berger Sr. explained the new legislation which he, Gov. Cooper and other lawmakers say is an acceptable middle ground.

This new bill would require all elementary schools to operate under plan A with in-person instruction.

Local districts would have the power to choose whether middle and high schools switch entirely to in-person learning or offer both in-person and remote learning.

Any districts moving to entirely in-person learning must inform the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and describe their safety plan.

The governor would still have power to order schools to close district by district.

The bill is expected to move through the North Carolina Senate on Wednesday. It will need House approval and the governor’s signature.

Cooper says the bill will go into effect on or around April 1 depending on when exactly the bill is signed.

The question of whether or not schools would be required to offer an in-person option had been in limbo as Republicans at the General Assembly fought for a bill that would demand K-12 districts offer in-person learning to all students.

The General Assembly was unable to override the governor’s veto of the bill.

The governor said he agreed that schools should reopen, but he said they should not open “without following NCDHHS and CDC guidelines on social distancing.”

On Wednesday afternoon, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services updated its guidance for K-12 schools.

The state said K-12 schools are expected to open for in-person instruction for K-12 students following the new health guidance.

“Extensive research tells us we can bring students back to the classroom with the right measures in place,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. “And students need in-person school not only for academics, but to learn social skills, get reliable meals, and to continue to grow and thrive.”

Republicans at the North Carolina General Assembly were unable on Monday night to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of a bill that would demand K-12 districts offer in-person learning to all students.

The final vote was 29-20.

Governor Roy Cooper vetoed Senate Bill 37 last week, which offers North Carolina students the option of in-person learning.

On Monday, he released a statement explaining why he chose to veto the bill, citing safety concerns as his main reason.

The full statement is provided below:

“The question on SB 37 that I vetoed is not whether our children should be in the classroom in person. They absolutely should. The question is whether we do it safely. The bill allows middle and high school students to be in school without following NCDHHS and CDC guidelines on social distancing. SB 37 also removes authority from state and local officials to put students in remote learning in an emergency like a new COVID variant hitting our schools. I have asked legislative leaders to compromise with me on these two issues but so far they have not. I will continue talking with legislators and I will work diligently with the State Board of Education and the Superintendent of Public Instruction to make sure all of our children and educators are in the classroom, in person and safe.”

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