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Rep. Jeff Zenger votes to send students back to school

RALEIGH — The state House of Representatives gave final legislative approval Thursday to an agreement to reopen North Carolina classrooms for students. Senate Bill 220 The Reopen Our Schools Act of 2021 requires grades K-5 to open full-time for students under Plan A in-person instruction. It also gives local school districts flexibility for grades 6-12 to choose Plan A or move to hybrid learning under Plan B.

“There’s much rejoicing from parents and kids at the prospect of returning to normalcy” said Rep. Zenger

Schools opening under Plan A for Grades 6-12 will be required to detail their plans to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), but the department will not have the authority to veto a local district’s decision. Gov. Cooper will be able to temporarily close certain classes, schools, or districts in the event of a COVID outbreak under S220. Every North Carolina school must meet these requirements no later than 21 days after ratification of Senate Bill 220. The agreement is a major victory for parents, students, and General Assembly lawmakers committed to getting students back into the classroom, said Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) on Thursday.

“Today is just the beginning of our road to education recovery for countless North Carolina families who need our continued focus to get caught up and ready for the learning opportunities ahead for them,” Moore said Thursday. “This was a shared effort by state leaders to respond to the voices of North Carolina parents, students, and taxpayers who deserve education systems that function at the highest level every day. Our work continues to ensure students have access to intense learning recovery opportunities this semester, this Summer, and next year.”

Senate Bill 37 was filed on Feb. 1 by Senator Deanna Ballard to allow students to return to schools for in-person instruction. After bipartisan passage through the Legislature, S37 was vetoed by Cooper on Feb. 26. Legislative leaders met with Governor Cooper to work out compromise language that then became Senate Bill 220. With bipartisan agreement across the Legislature and approval from the Cooper administration, Senate Bill 220 is expected to become law imminently.