Today, I voted to support legislation to return all North Carolina students to in-person learning. Senate Bill 220 requires elementary schools to operate under Plan A, and authorizes districts to return middle and high schools to Plan A if they choose. It passed both the Senate and the House unanimously, and now goes to the Governor for his review and signature.
Under the agreement, kindergarten through fifth grade will open under Plan A as defined by the latest 2021 NC Public Health Toolkit (K-12). Local districts will have the flexibility to decide between opening under Plan A, Plan B, or a combination of the two for grades 6-12. Families can still choose to continue virtual learning if that best fits their needs.
The deal was reached after a weeks-long standoff with Gov. Roy Cooper over school reopening. Gov. Cooper previously vetoed legislation authorizing districts to move to Plan A. Under this agreement, middle and high schools that operate under Plan A must partner with the ABC Science Collaborative (Duke University) so the Collaborative can collect and analyze data related to reopening schools. The Collaborative’s efforts will be funded through $500,000 of federal COVID relief funds allocated to the Department of Public Instruction.
Schools choosing to open under Plan A for grades 6-12 must notify the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to describe their plan for moving to Plan A, though DHHS will not have the authority to veto a local district’s decision to move to Plan A.
Parents of students in grades 6-12 with IEPs attending schools in Plan B can choose to have their child attend school under Plan A.
All of the requirements of this agreement would be effective 21 days after it becomes law. However, school districts are authorized to move to Plan A or Plan B immediately after it becomes law. Schools can add additional teacher workdays between when it becomes law and the date they being operating under Plan A or Plan B so they have more time to prepare if needed.
The Governor will have the authority to order a closure, restriction, or reduction of operations within schools, but can only do so on a district-by-district basis.
Governor Cooper has kept our schools closed for too long, and at great expense to the education and mental and physical health of the children of this state. Today we begin the process of getting our kids back to school and repairing that damage. I urge the Governor to honor this agreement and quickly sign this bill.