North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and President Pro Tem of the state Senate Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) announced Wednesday, March 10, that they had reached an agreement on school reopening.
In February, the state legislature passed a bill requiring all public schools to offer in-classroom learning to all students, with the flexibility for students to also continue virtual classes if so desired.
Cooper vetoed the bill and the Senate failed to override the veto by one vote. One Democratic senator who voted for the bill voted against the override and Sen. Ben Clark (D-Cumberland), who was one of the bill’s co-sponsors, was absent. The Senate voted to reconsider the bill, but the second vote to override the veto was delayed because of the ongoing negotiations with Cooper to reach an agreement.
Under the agreement, which will become law after it is passed by the Senate and House and signed by Cooper, elementary schools will be required to open with full-time in-person classes.
Middle schools and high schools will either have to operate under Cooper’s plan A, which is full-time in-person classes, or Cooper’s plan B, which requires more social distancing.
Special needs students would be able to choose between plan A and plan B.
All students would also be offered a virtual learning option, so no students would be forced back into the classroom against the wishes of their parents.
Middle schools and high schools currently don’t have the option of opening under plan A, and plan B requires so much social distancing that some schools have found it not a feasible option.
Cooper closed the schools to in-person learning in March 2020, and most middle school and high school students in the state have not been in a classroom for almost a year.
Since the agreement has been reached, it is predicted that the Senate will pass the new school reopening bill later in the day on Wednesday, March 10. House Speaker Tim Moore said that the bill does not have to go through committee and the House could vote on it on Wednesday also.
Once Cooper signs the bill it becomes law and goes into effect immediately. However, the bill does give schools 21 days to comply.