N.C. Senate leaders prepare plan for potential vote to override governor’s veto of school reopening bill

Updated: Mar. 7, 2021 at 5:27 PM EST
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WBTV) - North Carolina Senate leaders are fighting to require school districts to give the option for in-person learning across the state.

In that plan is a potential vote to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of Senate Bill 37.

Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and Sen. Deanna Ballard (R-Watauga) discussed the next steps Tuesday in moving forward with the bill. The discussion was initially planned for Monday but was delayed.

Berger said Tuesday that he and senators had been in a direct negotiations with Cooper on a school reopening compromise plan.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that we will reach a deal very soon,” Berger said. Ballard said she has been “fighting hard” to get students back into the classroom for in-person instruction.

On March 1, the North Carolina Senate failed to override Cooper’s veto.

Twenty-nine opposing votes led to the Senate’s failure to override the veto. The Senate would have needed three-fifths of the vote.

Senate Bill 37 was aimed at requiring schools to provide access to in-person learning under Plan A (minimal social distancing) for students with exceptional needs. It also required schools to provide in-person learning options for all K-12 students under either Plan A or Plan B (moderate social distancing).

The bill would have allowed students to continue remote learning if they choose. School systems have had a mix of in-person and virtual learning for nearly a year due to the pandemic.

On Feb. 26 Cooper vetoed Senate Bill 37, saying it “falls short” of the state’s COVID-19 safety guidance.

“Children should be back in the classroom safely and I can sign this legislation if it adheres to DHHS health safety guidance for schools and protects the ability of state and local leaders to respond to emergencies. This bill currently falls short on both of these fronts,” Cooper said.

The governor said the bill allows students in middle and high school to go back into the classroom in violation of North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and CDC health guidelines.

Also, Cooper said it hinders local and state officials from protecting students and teachers during an emergency.

“As I have informed the Legislature, I would sign the bill if these two problems are fixed. As written, the bill threatens public health just as North Carolina strives to emerge from the pandemic. Therefore, I veto the bill,” Cooper said.

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