Tuesday, 09 February 2021 19:48

N.C. Senate passes bill to return students to classroom

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Tom McInnis, R-Richmond, was one of 29 state senators to approve a bill allowing students back in the classroom. Tom McInnis, R-Richmond, was one of 29 state senators to approve a bill allowing students back in the classroom. RO file photo

RALEIGH — State Sen. Tom McInnis was one of 29 senators to approve a bill that would send North Carolina students back to the classroom.

Senate Bill 37, if approved, would require all state school districts to give families the option to return their students to in-person learning for the rest of the school year.

Students could also remain virtual learners if the parents so choose.

According to legislators, the bill “balances the critical need for in-person learning with the requirements set by NCDHHS in the Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit.”

The bill was filed Feb. 1, a day before Gov. Roy Cooper cited research suggesting that students could return as long as proper mitigation procedures were followed.

Durham County school leaders had previously opted to remain virtual for the rest of the year.

The resolution portion of the bill cites “high failure rates in remote learning classes among middle and high school students are being reported statewide” as one of the reasons students should be in classrooms.

“The science is overwhelming,” McInnis, R-Richmond, said in a press release. “Withholding from children their basic right to an adequate education will have lifelong consequences. Multiple studies, including one conducted here in North Carolina, show it’s safe to reopen schools by following health protocols. It’s time for all schools to reopen.”

The Richmond County Board of Education already approved a similar local measure, with students returning to class last week.

The bill passed its third reading in the Senate Tuesday mostly along partisan lines, with two Democrats — Sens. Ben Clark and Kirk diViere, both of Cumberland County —  joining the chamber’s Republicans. Fifteen Democrats voted “No” and six senators had excused absences.

The bill was sent to the N.C. House, passed its first reading (no vote recorded), and referred to the Education Committee.

See the bill attached at the bottom of this story.