Can NC schools move to remote learning due to COVID-19?

CHARLOTTE — Students filled classrooms after winter break as COVID-19 cases continue to increase across the U.S.

Channel 9 education reporter Elsa Gillis looked at the options laid out in current North Carolina state law to move students to remote learning.

[PAST COVERAGE: Cooper signs bill letting school districts decide on remote learning]

Part of Senate Bill 654, which was signed into law in August, allows remote learning for public school districts due to COVID-19 emergencies -- but only under specific circumstances.

According to the law, districts have the authority to make day-to-day decisions for the 2021-2022 school year about shifting individual schools or classrooms to remote learning, due to “COVID-19 exposures that result in insufficient school personnel or required student quarantines.”

[Which local schools have implemented virtual learning plans?]

School districts have to report this to the Department of Public Instruction within 72 hours of the shift, and classes must go back to in-person learning as soon as staff are available or quarantines are over.

The bill does not allow for remote learning due to an increasing positivity rate or a new variant.

Part of the same law allows for some more remote-learning days, due to inclement weather or other emergency situations.

Channel 9′s Joe Bruno spoke to one of the local lawmakers who sponsored Senate Bill 654, and said the reason behind the change is to make sure in-person learning is provided as much as possible.

“Everyone’s really primary concern is educating our kids and getting them back in the classroom, and ensuring that we have them protected for in-class instruction,” said Sen. Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga County.

Gov. Roy Cooper, who signed the bill into law, did not respond to a request for comment.

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(WATCH BELOW: NC bill would allow students to continue learning while quarantining at home)