NC Republicans working on next steps in push to reopen schools to more students

Capitol Report

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Republicans in the General Assembly are determining their next steps in the push to open schools for more kids to come back in person, as they lose support from some Democrats who had been in favor of a bill requiring schools to offer in-person learning.

Rep. Graig Meyer (D-Orange/Caswell) was one of eight Democrats who joined with Republicans in the state House of Representatives and voted in favor of the bill. Gov. Roy Cooper (D) vetoed it, and now Meyer questions whether it’s even necessary.

“At this point, I think that the objectives of getting schools open to in-person instruction have largely been met. I don’t know why we need the bill,” Meyer said a few minutes after he received the first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine Monday.

Senate Republicans have been trying to decide when to try a second time to override Cooper’s veto of Senate Bill 37. After that override attempt failed last week, state health officials updated their guidance for schools, now calling on all districts to offer in-person classes and make remote learning an option only for those who are high-risk and for families who request it.

In addition, the State Board of Education passed a resolution calling on all school districts to operate in-person “to the fullest extent possible” by the end of this month.

“I don’t know why we need legislation at this point because of that action that’s (been) taken,” Meyer said.

Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) planned to announce the next steps Monday on school reopening and the potential veto override vote of SB37, but delayed that announcement to Tuesday. His office did not give an explanation when asked why.

In the meantime, Republicans in the House are moving forward with an expected vote this week on a bill that would allow several public school districts to operate under the state’s least restrictive social distancing plan, paving the way for them to bring more kids back in person.

That bill would allow five school districts to operate under Plan A, the state’s least restrictive social distancing plan. State health officials have called for middle and high schools only to return under Plan B, which calls for six feet of distance.

The bill is considered a local bill, which would not be subject to a veto by Cooper. It would apply to the following school districts: Asheboro City, Carteret County, Haywood County, Randolph County, and Yancey County.

“We really want to move on with this and get this done. And, in those communities where they believe this is the right thing for their community, I believe they ought to be able to do that,” House Speaker Tim Moore (R) said. “It’s an option for folks in these counties to do. And, of course, any parents who don’t feel comfortable sending their kids to school don’t have to.”

Democrats are already pushing back on it, citing a provision in the state Constitution that limits local bills from applying to matters related to health.

Moore argues the bill is allowed, as it deals with education and the way in which children are able to attend school.

The House K-12 Education Committee will consider it Tuesday. A vote in full House could occur Wednesday, Moore said.

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