S.B. 37 Provides More Health Protections for Teachers than the Governor’s StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit, Requires Every Classroom Follow DHHS Guidelines
Raleigh, N.C. – The North Carolina General Assembly gave bipartisan approval Wednesday to legislation letting families choose whether to return to in-person learning in public schools.
Senate Bill 37 In-Person Learning Choice for Families allows teachers and staff members who self-identify as high-risk from COVID-19 to seek modified accommodations to minimize exposure risk, consistent with the Governor’s StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit.
The bill explicitly mandates “Local school administrative units shall comply with all requirements of the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit (K-12).”
The bill goes a step further than the Governor’s toolkit to allow teachers and staff members who are direct caretakers of a minor with an underlying health condition identified as high-risk of COVID-1 to also seek modified accommodations that minimize exposure risk. It also gives local school districts flexibility to adjust student assignments as necessary to facilitate in-person learning.
State lawmakers sent over $1.6 billion in federal relief funding to local school systems to support the reopening priority this month, including over $140 million to Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools and $95 million to Wake County schools, the state’s largest districts.
Governor Cooper has joined North Carolina legislators in urging schools to reopen and can deliver on that shared priority by signing S.B. 37 this week.
Expert medical guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control, the Harvard School of Public Health, and other leading healthcare organizations demonstrates that there is limited risk of infection in education settings that are prepared safely.
Closed classrooms hurt vulnerable young people the most and widen education gaps between low-income and affluent students. Special education students are hit particularly hard by the loss of in-person learning.
Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) has said that S.B. 37 addresses education, economic, and mental health crises harming North Carolina families, whose school districts face some of the tightest restrictions on reopening in the nation.
Speaker Moore responded Wednesday to a statement from the Governor suggesting he would veto the bill:
“There is broad agreement that the number one priority for North Carolinians today, the most important shared goal that we can accomplish together right now, is reopening public schools for struggling young students,” Speaker Moore said Wednesday.“I urge the Governor to sign this bill because parents, healthcare experts, and educators agree that safely returning students to the classroom as soon as possible is vital for educational and economic recovery in North Carolina.”
Senate Bill 37 In-Person Learning Choice for Families was sent to the Governor.