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Sunday, March 14, 2021 marks one year since Gov. Roy Cooper closed school buildings due to COVID-19. So, it is fitting that this week marked a bipartisan agreement to bring students back to classrooms.

We covered the joint press conference between Cooper, legislative leaders, and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt on legislation that opens classrooms in every public school district to students. Read about that legislation here. It has now passed the General Assembly and has been signed into law by Cooper.

“Getting students back into the classroom safely is a shared priority, and this agreement will move more students to in-person instruction while retaining the ability to respond to local emergencies,” Cooper said in a statement announcing his signing of the bill.

COVID-19 relief

The governor signed a bill allocating federal COVID-19 relief to a variety of things, including public education.

The legislation includes more than $140 million for public school items, including $40 million to help pay for a summer school program for at-risk students.

“While I will ask legislators to revisit some areas of this legislation, including changes necessary to quickly deliver rental assistance, these funds will bring needed relief for people who are struggling, schools and small businesses as we strive to emerge from this pandemic,” Cooper said in a press release.

Read more about the bill here.

House K-12

A House K-12 committee this week gave favorable votes to a number of bills, including one that would ensure that teachers in schools “for students with visual and hearing impairments,” would receive the same $350 bonus given to all other teachers in the state. Earlier in the summer, lawmakers passed legislation granting the bonuses to teachers, but some were left out. This bill is an attempt to rectify that.

Another bill offers school transportation flexibility for districts trying to get students to school under either plan A or B. Plan A is in-person learning with minimal social distancing, while plan B is a hybrid of in-person and remote learning that has more strict distancing guidelines. That bill went on to pass the full House.

Another bill in that committee promotes “muscadine grape juice usage,” in schools. This bill has been referred to the House agriculture committee.

A local bill on in-person learning also passed that committee but is now moot because of the agreement between legislators and the governor on returning students to school.

Odds and ends

A bill about who can be a member of the board of trustees of Isothermal Community College passed the Senate.

A bill related to the ability of military children to attend local school districts passed the House.

A local bill that increases the number of people allowed at outdoor high school sporting venues passed a Senate rules committee. It applies to 11 counties. This is one of a number of local bills attempting to make the same changes to different counties. The governor can’t veto local bills.

A presentation at a joint education appropriations committee this week gave lawmakers an overview of financial aid programs provided by the state, including school choice programs such as the opportunity scholarship, disabilities grant, and education savings accounts programs.

See that presentation below.

Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.