In a public briefing on Tuesday, Democratic Governor Roy Cooper strongly encouraged all schools in the state to offer some form of in-person learning for students. The statement comes as legislation that would mandate in-person learning moves through the General Assembly.
— WUNC (@wunc) February 2, 2021
Cooper has faced increasing pressure from GOP lawmakers to reopen more schools. The legislation, introduced by Republican lawmakers on Monday, would require school districts in the state to offer at least partial in-person instruction for all K-12 public school students. Senate Bill 37, which is proposed by state Sens. Deanna Ballard, Michael Lee and Ralph Hise, would still allow parents to utilize an online-only option for their child.
Despite his strongly worded "urging" to reopen, Cooper stopped short of issuing his own official mandate.
Cooper was joined by the state health secretary, state superintendent of public instruction, and chairman of the state school board in saying that students haven't been getting what they need from remote learning and that schools can reopen safely.
But the governor says it should be up to administrators at the local level to determine whether they're ready to open back up. Cooper also said he's concerned that the pending legislation strips protocols for safeguards like masking and social distancing.
Superintendent Catherine Truitt said students will already have a lot of ground to make up, including in their mental and physical health.
"Data shows us that our most vulnerable students are also those who are disproportionately impacted by the remote, at-home learning environment," she said.
If the Senate bill passes and Cooper does decide to sign it, the plan would take effect within a couple of weeks and remain in place for the remainder of the school year.