State lawmakers prepared to vote on school reopening bill after conference committee tweaks

Tim Moore

House Speaker Tim Moore said Tuesday that the conference committee tweaking Senate Bill 37, which would require school districts to provide in-person instruction, has reached agreement on the legislation.

Speaking at a press conference, Moore said the House and the Senate could vote on Senate Bill 37 as early as Wednesday.

A provision that would require teachers opting out of in-person instruction to provide a doctor’s note documenting an underlying condition that makes them or a family member more susceptible to serious illness or death from the virus is the only notable change, the speaker said.

“I think there’s been some tweaks to that language,” Moore said. “I think now it’s [SB 37] tracking some other language that talks about where the person can basically self-identify as being at risk as opposed to requiring a doctor’s note.”

The bill was massaged to ensure compliance with federal laws such as the American With Disabilities Act (ADA), Moore said. The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodations and other areas.

“What was done with the modified language was to take some of that and incorporate it into the bill to make it very clear that those exceptions would be there for those folks who are at risk,” Moore said.

The bill has been approved in the House and Senate with the help of several Democrats. Republicans would need help from Democrats to override a veto by Gov. Roy Cooper.

“My hope is that the governor [Cooper] will sign this bill,” Moore said. “The governor held a press conference where he said he wanted children back in school, and so this bill does that. This bill, in a safe way, would put children back in school, back for in-classroom instruction where appropriate and with the appropriate social distancing guidelines.”

Moore made his comments during a press conference held to roll out House Bill 82, which would require school districts to offer six weeks of learning recovery and enrichment programs after the regular school year ends.

Summer Learning Choice for Families” — would also require “innovative” and frequent testing throughout the school year to assess student learning loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It amends the state’s Benchmark assessments law and mandates more testing in “certain grades and core subject areas to allow teachers to more frequently measure students learning and address student learning loss throughout the school year.”

“An innovative benchmark assessment shall provide for educator flexibility, assessments aligned with the standard course of study, and actionable data for teachers, schools, and local school administrative units,” HB 82 said.

Jeffrey Elmore (R-Wilkes); John Torbett (R-Gaston) and Jeff Zenger (R-Forsyth) are also sponsors of the measure.

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