Governor, lawmakers reach agreement to reopen all N.C. schools

[photo courtesy Caroline Parker/]

Gov. Roy Cooper and leaders of the N.C. General Assembly have reached an agreement that would have all public schools in North Carolina reopening to in-person instruction in some way as early as the first week of April.

During a news conference in downtown Raleigh, Governor Cooper, Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue (D-Wake), House Minority Leader Robert Reives (D-Chatham), State Superintendent Catherine Truitt and State Board of Education Chair Eric Davis announced the compromise contained in Senate Bill 220.

The Senate was expected to act on the bill today and send it to the House, which could give its approval as early as Thursday.

Highlights of the bill, with notes from Dare County Schools Superintendent John Farrlley shared in an email to parents.

· All elementary schools are required to open under Plan A. (DCS Elementary Schools are already operating under Plan A.)

· Middle and high schools have the option to open under Plan A or Plan B. Plan C (virtual only) is not an option. (DCS Middle and High Schools are already operating under Plan B.)

· Middle and high schools that open under Plan A must notify NCDHHS and describe the plan to open safely. NCDHHS does not have the authority to veto a plan.

· The bill becomes effective 21 days after the bill becomes law.

· Districts ready to open do not have to wait the 21 days.

· Students with an IEP or 504 plan must have the option to be in Plan A at the discretion of a student’s parent or guardian. (If this bill becomes law this week as anticipated, DCS will need to hold a special called meeting of the Board of Education to modify the current 6-12 hybrid instructional program to meet this mandate. This meeting would need to take place prior to spring break.)

· The Governor maintains the authority to close schools on a district-by-district basis.

· Local districts retain authority to close a school due to an outbreak or quarantine.

· Middle and high schools that open under Plan A will partner with the ABC Science Collaborative to collect anonymous data.

· School districts are permitted to add teacher workdays between the time the bill becomes law and schools reopen.

· Virtual instruction must remain an option for families.

· The current 6-foot social distancing mandate remains in Plan B for grades 6-12.

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